Living with crime & violence in PNG
How Papua's Lani people view the world

No degree – so police commissioner removed

David Manning on the job. So what's better - a commissioner who you know can do the job or a bloke with a university degree?
David Manning at work. So what's better - a person you know can do the job effectively or an unknown quantity with a university degree?

| The Kramer Report

PORT MORESBY – On Friday afternoon, the Papua New Guinea national court handed down its decision on judicial review proceedings filed by Sylvester Kalaut and Fred Yakasa challenging police commissioner David Manning’s appointment by the National Executive Council in December 2019.

Kalaut and Yakasa challenged Manning's appointment on seven grounds. Justice Cannings dismissed six of the seven but upheld one - that Manning’s appointment by NEC breached procedures as he did not meet the minimum requirements to be selected to lead the police department.

Cannings found that the Public Service Commission had erred by including Manning in the short-list of candidates for the position.

Manning’s lawyers and the solicitor-general argued that the police commissioner, being a constitutional office, is not equivalent to a department secretary, and the police Force, being a state service, is not equivalent to a government department, therefore the regulation ought not apply.

However, the court expressed the view that the regulation did apply, and that Manning's appointment was illegal.

The court ordered that he remain in office for seven days to Friday 29 January 2021, when the position will become vacant.

So what happens now?

With the matter no longer before the court, and as minister for justice and attorney general, I intend to simply seek NEC endorsement to amend the regulation to exempt the commissioner of police from its oversight.

In practice, the police commissioner has never been subject to the minimum tertiary qualification requirement given the operational nature of the police force.

Following the court ruling, I consulted both the prime minister and incoming police minister William Onglo.

I am pleased to confirm that the Marape-Basil government remains confident in Manning's ability to reform the Royal PNG Constabulary.

Once the regulation has been amended, the Public Service Commission will recommence the process and resubmit a short-list of candidates to NEC after the position becomes vacant next week.


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Philip Kai Morre

Does a degree at university determine a person's IQ and knowledge? I have seen and experienced that some degree holders are passive intellectuals and their performance is poor in any given job.

They received their degrees because they passed exams and assignments but actual knowledge is quite different.

In any job interview and selection, you should consider documentary evidence, academic results, IQ and EQ tests, and those who have vision and insight.

David Manning may have no degree but if he can perform better than any other police commissioner let him complete his term.

A classical example is Henry Tokam, former police commissioner, who had no degree but was one of the best commissioners in PNG with integrity and professionalism.

Graham King

I have always found that a PhD from the School of Hard Knocks was the best qualification.

Chris Overland

When I returned to Australia from PNG I rapidly discovered that progress into the upper ranks of the South Australian Public Service was almost always contingent upon possessing a post-secondary or tertiary qualification of some sort.

The lack of a degree level qualification condemned a person to remain in the lower to middle clerical ranks almost irrespective of personal diligence or achievement.

Appointment to the executive ranks was and is virtually impossible without having an appropriate degree level qualification.

The presumption was and is that tertiary study teaches you how to read complex and difficult material, conduct research, analyse data, then organise your thoughts to write coherently to defend or articulate a theory or argument..

Of course, the extent to which a given student develops these skills depends upon many factors and, in my experience at least, people can graduate from a university having demonstrated only quite modest achievements in these areas.

So the main argument for preferring or requiring tertiary qualifications for candidates for executive positions in the public service really boils down to such qualifications being an indicator of a reasonable degree of intelligence and the capacity to apply it to achieve a certain level of competence in a range of intellectual tasks.

However, in most respects, it is a person's track record that is much more important than his or her formal qualifications.

Using my own case as an example, my initial appointment as Chief Executive of a hospital hinged largely upon my work history within the department of health, not my degree in history and politics.

My subsequent appointments to even more senior roles had nothing at all to do with my achievements as an under graduate and everything to do with demonstrated competence and experience in managing large and complex organisations.

Also, to be frank, a reputation for strict political neutrality, scrupulous honesty and a highly developed work ethic counted for a great deal too.

This is especially true today, where Minister's can and do express their views about who should occupy senior executive roles within their departments. Whether this is a good thing is an open question, but it remains the case nonetheless.

In the case of David Manning's appointment as Police Commissioner, I think that there is a valid argument that a demonstrated track record of achievement, combined with a deserved reputation as an honest, diligent, politically neutral officer, are much more important factors than any particular tertiary level qualification.

While possession of a relevant tertiary qualification should remain an important desirable factor for any senior executive appointment, it should always be remembered that the mere possession of an under graduate or higher degree is unlikely to be indicative of any inherent ability to do a difficult, complex and demanding job.

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