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Why our national integrity is suffering

Mathew Damaru - the honest cop with few friends and a lot of enemies in high places

| My Land, My Country

LAE - Mathew Damaru, Director of the Police National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate (NFAC), didn’t mince words when he told a Transparency International PNG summit last week the directorate had been starved of funding.

From an annual budget of K1.2 million a few years ago, the directorate is now getting just K350,000 for its operations.

“What can you do with K5,000 a month?” Damaru asked. “That’s peanuts!”

Mathew Damaru was on a TIPNG panel discussing the system failures of implementing laws and regulations.

His statement came on the back of the launch of the TIPNG’s National Integrity System Assessment for 2021 which looks at how well our systems of governance have upheld Papua New Guinea’s national integrity.

The data, drawn from a cross section of the community, highlighted serious flaws in the governance systems that ultimately contributed to corruption.

When Mr Damaru spoke it brought to light what is echoed by the TIPNG report and the public.

The delays in investigations and the inability of police to perform their duties has contributed to PNG’s inability to be seen to be delivering justice.

Mathew Damaru, has few friends and a lot of enemies in high places.

In 2016, he was physically attacked after opposing the appointment of a legal officer to the fraud squad.

In the same year he was suspended after a series of high profile arrests that included attorney general Ano Pala and supreme court judge Bernard Sakora.

“Fraud and corruption investigations take time and a lot of money. It is not like general policing where the evidence is easily available,” Damaru said.

“With the budget cuts, we can only do investigations in the National Capital District.”

NFAC is just one of many agencies that can’t enforce laws that fall under their jurisdiction. As the primary corruption investigators, this is a serious national problem.

This means, fraud cases outside of Port Moresby can’t be investigated due to the lack of funding.  It is a broken link in law enforcement that the government needs to fix, yet appears unwilling.

The government of prime minister James Marape says it is serious about fighting corruption. But it will take more than words to convince a skeptical public.

The government is plagued about questions of integrity in appointments to public office, contracts and the willingness of government to support government agencies to do their jobs.

At the TIPNG integrity summit, Marape told the audience that his efforts had met a lot of resistance.

“I nearly lost government after the passing of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) bill,” he said. “I want also introduce laws that call for the declaration of sources of wealth.”

Also in attendance was former head of police prosecutions, Thomas Eluh, now head of the ICAC. He said he has been given funding to set up the office but its work is still hindered by the lack of operational funding.

“We have to be careful who is recruited into ICAC. We need good people,” Eluh said.

The TIPNG report and recommendations are a serious look at how we’re functioning as a country.  From public complaints, it is not difficult to see where the problems are.


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