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PNG’s disappointing disaster response

| Academia Nomad

After the cyclone the flood
After the cyclone the flood (Generated with AI, 1 April 2024 0804 am)

PORT MORESBY – The history of disaster response in Papua New Guinea is fraught with delays, inefficiency and corruption.

Under the Public Finance Management Act, tendering processes are suspended when a disaster is declared to ensure the response is faster. And this opens the door to corruption. How?


When governments don’t have to go through tender processes because speed is essential, they give funds to service providers without the usual safeguards.

These services might include providing lifesaving equipment, purchasing medicine from overseas or replacing destroyed telecommunications equipment.

Once the rules of the tendering process no longer apply, politicians and public service authorities are able to award contracts to cronies and wantoks.

Often these suppliers have little experience and inadequate skills and who, as a result, provide inefficient services, poor materials or unreliable equipment, all at outrageously inflated prices.

The problems caused by these failings can make disasters worse and cause much suffering.


We have seen no audit reports of the millions of kina spent on the devastating Highlands earthquake of 2018. Parliament has never received information showing how the funds were spent.

There is no doubt some people profited improperly. But no one bothers. Life just moves on.

The same comments can be made in relation to the K6 billion spent on dealingwith Covid-19 a couple of years later, although now the International Monetary Fund is demanding acquittals.


Papua New Guinea is prone to disaster.

In most years there are floods that destroy homes, villages and crops.

There are also often volcanic eruptions, long periods of drought, inundating tides and devastating cyclones.

Yet when you look at the budgets of the government departments responsible for disasters, you will find little provision has been made for them.

PNG’s national policy for disaster response is ad hoc. It can be described as almost negligent.

Poor coordination

Every time a disaster response is reviewed, the lack of coordination between agencies is always reported.

This problem applies to donors and aid providers as much as to domestic agencies.

When there is a disaster, private sector companies give assistance, as do foreign embassies, international NGOs, multilateral organisations and provincial and national governments.

There is assistance at various levels and in different forms which sometimes meets needs and sometimes don’t.

Improved coordination is always recommended but very rarely achieved.

Lack of data

Do we know exactly how many people live within areas affected by floods in East Sepik Province? Do we know how many people with disabilities live in a particular district or how many houses and other major structures there are in towns and villages?

These data can be of great importance in knowing how much to budget on recovery after disaster strikes.

PNG’s last reliable census was undertaken in 2001. In 2011 the National Statistics Office admitted the attempted census which was so inaccurate as to be useless.

Censuses are supposed to be conducted every 10 years but the first census since 2001 is planned for this year, 13 years late.

People born since 2002 have never been counted. So we estimate population. When disaster strikes, we don’t really know the extent of the recovery required.

We just allocate K10 million or whatever because we guess that will do.


I know that, during disasters, there are people who work very hard to provide assistance and recovery.

There are good leaders like Governor Allan Bird who uses money saved from the Provincial Services Improvements Program to respond to disasters.

And there are some beautiful souls in organisations like MAF aviation who assist during disasters.

We say thank you to all these exceptions to disappointment.


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Kaigabu Kamnanaya

(1) As a PNG citizen, I do not deny that there gaps with the management of emergencies and disasters in PNG.

This is NOT restricted function of PNG National Disaster Centre (NDCen) as mandated National Coordination Centre for all responding stakeholders towards any occurring disaster - its every one's business.

(2) For PNG National Disaster Centre, the office and its officers have been subject media scrutiny with negative comments since i984 when the Disaster Management At was enacted and not one particular public disaster management judicator attributed in public a compliment of report the efforts of Government entities involved in trying help the affected population.

(3) PNG National Disaster Management and Coordination Centre requires,

(i) Manpower support from National right don to LLG level

(ii) Separate Budget Line so that it can increase its annual Govt allocation from current K2.5 O million to K50.0 million

(iii) DRM Organisational structure from National Level right down to LLG

(iv) Mergement of key agencies like, NWS, Geohazard Management, NDC, CEPA, PNG Fire, St John Ambulance to form a separate Department/Ministry.

Lindsay F Bond

Each fest of funds gifts aid, yet festers futility.
Past spillage comes pillage, all wanting acquittal.
Worst by far would be, if of no help availability.
Trust bettering course to grow systems most vital.

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