'Let our people go,' Toroama tells Marape
Slush funds corrupt, not politics as usual

We need practical leaders who get things right

Michael Kabuni reveals the PNG government wasted half a billion kina over five years on just some of its ‘ghost employees’ 

| Academia Nomad

PORT MORESBY - A few years back, it was revealed that a teacher at Oro Province’s rural Bareji High School had no qualifications for the job.

This year, the tireless efforts of Sunday Bulletin journalist Simon Eroro exposed that a consultant hired by the Oro Provincial Government possessed no qualifications for the job he was doing.

Using the transcript of a female University of Papua New Guinea student, he had inserted his face in place of hers and his name over hers.

But he was dumb to leave the same student identification, which investigations showed also belonged to the female student.

These two individuals lacking the required qualifications were paid for their questionable services while.

But there are other people who get paid for not doing any work at all.

In 2018, then public service minister minister Elias Kapavore told NBC News that Papua New Guinea had 4,000 ‘ghost names’ on the public payroll - people who did no work but got paid.

Public service salaries consume the biggest share of the PNG budget. We don’t know if these 4,000 people were removed from the payroll.

Let me look more closely at the Oro cases to see what the provincial government should have done differently to avoid being fooled by fraudsters.

First, a few questions should have been asked. how was the consultant hired? Did the employers ask for a reference? What does his CV say? Did they contact his past employer?

Consultancy is premised on exceptional knowledge, which means there will be years of accumulated skills that can be checked.

These points are basic and show how low the bar is for public service recruitment.

The Oro Provincial Government could also have done better by calling UPNG and asked the school the consultant claimed to have graduated from to forward his transcript instead of relying on the copy he attached on his application.

In 2020, the Morobe Provincial Government called PNG universities and cross-checked the qualifications of their employees to make sure they had the same GPA as that on their transcripts and that they were indeed graduates of those universities.

It’s mind boggling to do some simple arithmetic on how much we’ve spent on the 4,000 ghosts over the years.

A conservative estimate shows that if the ghosts get paid K1,000 a fortnight, that’s K4 million a fortnight.

Multiply K4 million by 26 fortnights in a year and you get K104 million. Over 5 years, PNG had paid K520 million to ghosts.

Gosh we must love ghosts. PNG is so spiritual even ghosts get paid. And those salaries do not include entitlements, gratuities and other allowances.

There are things that we don’t need a loan or aid or China or Australia to solve. They just need common sense.

It may have been be unnecessary for the government to borrow more from overseas if it had saved that half a billion kina on salaries.

We don’t need scripture-quoting prime ministers or rock star politicians with large social media followings.

We just need practical leaders who get the simple things right.


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Paul Oates

It ain't just the Feds Phil. Wot about the States who seem keen to divide and get re-elected.

The behaviour of most states (except NSW) saved many lives and much chronic illness. Even if there had been no states, a rational national government would have needed to adopt varying tactics to managing Covid depending upon the situation in different locations. We’re at a precarious point right now (probably to be corrected somewhat today by those premiers who are sane). Imagine the condition of the country if Morrison and Berejiklian had totally had their way - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

I've got a new theory Paul.

If we want to see where our Australian federal system is going we need to look no further than the other side of the Torres Strait.

Paul Oates

Perhaps its all about how one looks at the problem of political leadership?

The real issue is that not enough ordinary people, yep that's you 'n me, don't take enough time and effort to understand the issues and to hold those who are responsible, accountable for their actions or inaction.

If we live in a true democracy, and that's fairly rare these days, there is an opportunity to take an interest in what is actually happening and to vote those who are not performing out and vote in, those who might actually do something before the power goes to their head.

Someone I know suggests no government should be in power for more than one term and no politician should be able to be re-elected.

Of course, that scenario might only work where there is an effective and accountable public service who are kept free of corruption by an anti-corruption body that has been fully and independently resourced.

Ah ha! Have I just identified the root cause of the problem?

Lindsay F Bond

Yeah, Bernard, on aging, a brain merely recognises what it's body is about to do.

Michael and Chris, yes but, at Bareji, that simpleton posing as a teacher had some expectation of his ability at falsehood and belief in his right to pursue it.

Identifying and presenting what may be 'right' for an acephalous society could be more than even a Somare might muster.

That simpleton took a whole Department to be but of fools.

Chris Overland

The politicisation of the public service has been an ongoing project for neo-liberal politicians all over the world.

This is presented to the public as a means of ensuring that the public sector is 'responsive' to the government of the day.

What it actually means is that the public sector remains servile and compliant to whatever the government wishes, irrespective of its merits or even legality.

I mention this because it is the background context whereby the corruption and incompetence mentioned in this article, as well as in the comments, is able to flourish seemingly unhindered by any effective efforts to stop it.

In Australia, the current Federal government has sequestered some $16 billion in the current budget for unnamed purposes.

That is, they have created what was once correctly called a 'slush fund' to pay for various electoral promises that they feel they may need to make in an effort to be re-elected.

That this is corruption seems not to have crossed their minds or, if it has, they airily say that it is just politics as usual.

The latter statement is false: it is not politics as usual but a clear breach of the long established custom and practice that public funds ought to be allocated in an open, fair and transparent manner to achieve things that are incontrovertibly 'in the public interest'.

Once such self serving actions are seen by others they effectively licence corrupt behaviour more generally. After all, if the great and the good can misappropriate public monies why not the little people too.

Thus the cancer of corruption metastasises throughout the whole body politic and, ultimately, this produces a failed or failing state.

Lebanon, Iraq and Myanmar are examples of this problem and PNG is already far down the same path.

Once corruption is endemic it is very hard to suppress unless there is the political will to do so. It is not rocket science to do this, only requiring the application of diligence, honesty, practical common sense and, as the author says, to the simple things right.

Bernard Corden

Dear Harry, 'Lessons learned' is a US military concept and predictably uses an extremely narrow definition of culture as, "The way we do things round here", underpinned by a rational decision making with a Watson/Skinner behaviourist worldview.

"The human brain does not make decisions, it merely hosts conversations" - Guy Claxton

Bernard Corden

Dear Phil, Our federal government's response to climate change and the Covid-1984 pandemic resembles a fistful of pakapoo tickets in a Canal Street opium den.

Philip Kai Morre

Some of those uneducated and professional pretenders who are employed are known to politicians because they employed them. This is happening everywhere in PNG.

They are cunning and greedy maniacs and will really fool you into believing they are real professionals.

I have seen that job applications are not screened properly to get the right person for the right job. A lot of fake degrees are pottering around and those employment authorities are too blind to see, or they knowingly allow them to be employed.

In any job application, there has to be a short list of names, a call for interviews, proven documentary evidence and a CV, perhaps IQ and EQ tests, checks of references....

And all applicants must possess the right qualifications -academic and professional qualifications - with a good track record.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The image of an 'unflushable turd' creeping through 'revolving doors' on a 'gravy train' is a fascinating thing to imagine Bernard.

Reminds me of our 'excretable' prime minister.

harry topham

Maybe its old rights of pasage thing , get a bloodied nose, learn your lessons and next time you get selected to join the team, just remember lessons learnt and DO NOT GET CAUGHT

Lindsay F Bond

Maholopa, Bareji High School and others along that partly greasy gravel road and beyond Pongani River fording-without-bridge, are places I visited simply to see the physical conditions for the delivery of education services in Oro Province, and to begin to assess and to be appreciative of the assets. (Visited flooded Pongani Primary 2008, and Bareji High 2018, Sakarina not yet. All as a tourist, who was at Eroro 1970/71.)

For instance, the road to Bareji (and Managalas) is mostly ok but with some near impassable portions (Banderi) that need have priority in upgrade. And Pongani River needs be adorned with a new bridge better than that lost a decade ago.

Then "it may come to pass", that senior education staff will give closer attendance. There is report of school(s) not visited by inspectorial staff and it might be surmised that wading through metre deep fast flowing rivers is a dampener on enthusiasm at assessing.

Hats off to Simon Eroro and all assiduously effective reporters. (My two lads were born at the area of Eroro, Katereda, which I say only to emphasize a yearning for integrity of teaching staff. The health facility at Katereda, when I visited in 2005, and since, shows that somebody made off with the solar panel from that roof, and which remains a matter outstanding. By this it may be surmised that not just one or two mouths are not telling, and that many mouths are consuming food, for which the cost is the theft of products or cash or both by, well, Oro people.)

Meanwhile, it needs be asked, how well are Oro learners achieving in more recent years. So crucial is it, that Oro folk need pull away from the biznez of theft and other forms of corruption and stop pretending that no one will really notice.

That fraudster so "dumb to leave the same student identification" is the example of a society staying not only dumb but increasingly more lazily ignorant.

Bernard Corden

In Australia we had banks and other financial service institutions invoicing dead people and the corporate leaders who sanctioned those activities merely resigned and ere often rewarded with a golden parachute.

An extensive royal commission at the expense of taxpayers found out where the bodies ere buried and the loss as then socialised to protect assets and preserve reputations.

I should add that many of the perpetrators typically resign "for personal reasons".

After receiving the golden parachute and once the heat dies down, they enigmatically resurface like an unflushable turd via a series of clandestine revolving doors on the gravy train.

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