Marape government fails to tackle corruption
20 May 2020
EDDIE TANAGO PAINE
PORT MORESBY - A year after taking power, the government of James Marape has completely failed to deliver on its promises to tackle Papua New Guinea’s chronic corruption.
James Marape was elected as prime minister on the back of a growing wave of discontent about political corruption and the misuse of public funds - and the initial signs from the new government were promising.
The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee emerged from the shadows to hold televised hearings into the procurement of medicines and medical supplies in Health Department secretary Kase was quietly removed.
A high-powered commission of inquiry was appointed to investigate the disastrous UBS loan scandal. Vocal corruption critic Bryan Kramer was appointed police minister and ex-Task Force Sweep boss Sam Koim took command at the Internal Revenue Commission.
Meanwhile, the legislation to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption was dusted off and brought back to parliament.
But the initial wave of optimism that the Marape government would decisively tackle the chronic corruption that is undermining service delivery and impoverishing the nation has been dashed in the face of overwhelming evidence that in Papua New Guinea it is business as usual.
Government minister William Duma, who managed to walk away from the Manumanu land scandal without facing charges despite the weight of the evidence, seems just as immune from any sanction over the Horizon Oil scandal.
The Australian chief executive of the oil company has been terminated after the board described his position as ‘untenable’ but Duma has not even been made to step aside while Australian and local police investigate.
Meanwhile 38 of the 40 Maseratis which sell for around $140,000 each in Australia are still sitting idle in a warehouse in Port Moresby.
Yet the Minister responsible for the purchase, Justin Tkatchenko, who falsely claimed firstly that the cars were being imported at no cost to PNG and then were ‘selling like hot cakes’ has not answered for misleading statements or the waste of upwards of K20 million.
To make matters worse, while some APEC vehicles are sitting idle, the government is again spending millions of kina on hire cars to help with the COVID-19 response.
Nowhere is the lack of accountability more apparent than at the very heart of the prime minister’s own department.
In February chief secretary Issac Lupari had his contract extended, at least temporarily, despite the numerous allegations against him and the specific promises Marape made to parliament last year that the position would be advertised and a new appointment made.
Lupari has never answered for the historical allegation contained in the Department of Finance commission of inquiry report that he defrauded the government.
In addition, the nation is still waiting to see the long-awaited audit APEC expenditure in which he played a central role.
The announcement in March that the controversial Paga Hill Estate has been granted tax concessions as a special economic zone is another example of a government committed to business as usual.
Despite the evidence of questionable land deals, political beneficiaries, human rights abuses and the previous record of the project CEO, the government has endorsed the project and all its grandiose claims without any proper economic analysis or public consultation.
Not only does the government seem committed to business as usual, it is very worrying that the previously vocal anti-corporation advocates among our MPs are so silent on all these issues.
Meanwhile the Ombudsman Commission which is tasked with policing the leadership code seems to have fallen into a terminal sleep.
While some people may point to the current COVID-19 crisis and state of emergency as having stalled progress on the ICAC and the UBS commission of inquiry, the truth is things were moving at a glacially slow speed even before the pandemic.
The commission of inquiry has faced numerous delays over funding and issuing visas and the government was showing no inclination to get the ICAC legislation fast-tracked through parliament and to set up a new agency.
In the last 10 months, despite a smattering of arrests and charges, there has not been one prosecution of a high profile leader for corruption or misappropriation and not one minister has been forced to resign or even temporarily step aside.
The sight of the government now conducting its own ‘internal audit’ of spending under the state of emergency despite the serious documented allegations against the health minister only emphasises how far the Marape government has failed to deliver on its promises.
Sidelined by the bench, Namah has more flaying around than playing around. Since October 2017, he has been (it might be suggested) groping in the park. Has the 'Opposition' exhausted its reserves?
Meanwhile the game ply on. For those for whom a win is their must, it's about plying their course, not complying for a civil society.
Immune is an apt word, Eddie. Infection testing would exhaust the budget even before treating the ill.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 01 June 2020 at 06:47 AM
Nah, Namah need not be slogging PON nor JM.
Needless be said? Namah's not got wood on that bawl.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 27 May 2020 at 05:37 PM
In PNG, corruption existed long before in all sectors but never became a serious and contentious matter of public concern. Why?
PNG had prime ministers who had control with good leadership, but in the last 8-10 years, we have had prime ministers with ethnic-egocentric and a blatant carelessness about the laws of this land.
PMs Peter O'Neill and James Marape are two individuals but it is one and the same system.... full of corruption.
Posted by: JK Domyal | 21 May 2020 at 04:46 PM
I was expecting a rendition of Fields of Athenry.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 21 May 2020 at 12:03 PM
Corruption has already taken root from the top level down. I think one way to deal with corruption is not only to replace the people in leadership positions but to change the system as well.
It's time to try out a different leadership style and put young vibrant people in leadership positions as well and see how it goes. That's just my opinion, thank you.
Posted by: Stephanie Alois | 21 May 2020 at 09:26 AM
John Mackerell, I hear what you say - and I was going to respond “but who taught the Australians to be corrupt?” Perfidious Albion? However as an Irishman my answer might be biased!
Seriously - I think there is a collective responsibility. My experience of the Local Govt Councillors in the Hagen area in the 1970's was that individual councillors were genuinely concerned for their tribe and clan and they did not enrich themselves at the expense of the clan.
If matters deteriorated later then maybe it was in part because we tolerated corruption in small things, and the corruption later grew.
I think Local Government Councils were working honestly and efficiently, but then the Provincial Government system was introduced and most LGCs were rendered powerless. I do think that created problems.
Posted by: Garry Roche | 21 May 2020 at 07:03 AM
The prime minister is not doing anything to fight corruption because he is part of the corruption as well as most other politicians.
Some of us are just fed up and frustrated that nothing has been done to put the nation in order. enough of preaching about corruption, time for action.
Posted by: Philip Kai Morre | 20 May 2020 at 10:45 PM
Quite sobering, Eddie.
If here a verse, it too is terse.
No word works as punity
not as satisfactory
of any punitory
No verb veers impunity
none as true oratory
of gain or laudatory
No speak pokes for purity
none plies inhibitory
of claimed regulatory
over said anomaly.
No aural urged priority
knocks as admonitory
of taints most desultory
o’er alleged validity.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 20 May 2020 at 09:42 PM
Corruption is nature's way of restoring faith in democracy - Peter Ustinov
Despite the Fitzgerald Inquiry one need only scrape the surface of the current Queensland state government. x
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 20 May 2020 at 04:41 PM
It has been said to me, more than once, by old, white PNG hands that those who taught PNG people how to be corrupt were the Australians. Opinions, please.
Posted by: John Mackerell | 20 May 2020 at 12:55 PM