Confrontation at Ground Zero
Captain Happ & his New Guinea memento

Why our national integrity is suffering

James Marape centre stage at the Transparency International integrity summit

| My Land, My Country

LAE - The head of the Papua New Guinea’s National Fraud and Anti-Corruption (NFAC) Directorate, Mathew Damaru, didn’t mince words.

Last week he told a Transparency International summit that his directorate had been starved of funding.

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

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

Damaru was on a Transparency International panel discussing system failures in the implementation of laws and regulations.

His words came on the back of the launch of the Transparency’s national integrity system assessment for 2021.

It’s a look at how well PNG’s governance has upheld national integrity.

The data, drawn from a cross section of the community, highlights serious flaws in governance systems. And, ultimately, this contributes to corruption.

When Damaru spoke he brought  to light what has been echoed by the public as well as the Transparency report.

Delays in investigations and the incapacity of police to perform their duties have 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 he opposed the appointment of a legal officer to the fraud squad.

Also in 2016, he was suspended following 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,” he said.

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

Damaru’s directorate is just one of many agencies that can’t enforce the laws that fall under its jurisdiction.

In his case, as the primary corruption investigator, it is a serious national problem.

Lack of funds means fraud cases outside Port Moresby can’t be investigated. And this broken link in law enforcement needs to be fixed by the government, but it appears unwilling to do so.

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 its appointments, its contracts and its willingness to support government agencies to do their jobs.

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

“I nearly lost government after the passing of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) bill,” the prime minister said.

“I want also introduce laws that call for the declaration of sources of wealth.”

Great policies can’t work in public service systems run by corrupt people

Also at the summit was former head of police prosecutions, Thomas Eluh, now head of 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 Transparency integrity report and recommendations take a serious look at how PNG is functioning as a country. 

From public complaints, it is not difficult to see where the problems are.


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