This essay was written by the late Sir Barry Holloway while he was a student at the University of Papua New Guinea in the 1970s. The assignment task was for the, primarily new, UPNG students to write about a personal experience of bureaucracy for Prof John Ballard's Public Administration course on rural development and planning.
THE SETTING IS AN INLAND Patrol Post 'X' in Papua New Guinea and how in the mid-1950's the Patrol Officer of the Department of Native Affairs as it was then called, had to manipulate the law, public monies, government stores, specialist work forces, his authority and the truth to achieve development.
The successful 'operator' had to know how to work within and outside the formal structure of the bureaucratic organisation.
He depended very much on his personal relations among individuals for survival as many a Patrol Officer had gone to the courts, been dismissed, or sent away to more forbidding places for making errors in human relations.
The Officer of the Department of Native Affairs had to be a generalist and on this Patrol Post his duties included being in charge of police and prisons; he was also a magistrate and arbitrator and cared for the agencies of Treasury, Posts and Telegraphs, Public Works, Health, Education and Civil Aviation. One of the most important jobs was the opening of the hinterland and the consolidation of central government influence.
In this case study the P.O. wanted to get teachers and an education complex established on Patrol Post 'X'. Patrol Post 'X' rated very low for central government priorities; especially with regard to education as 'first contact' was still being made.
The P.O. wrote a letter to the District Officer explaining the need for a school at Patrol Post 'X'. The District Officer minuted it on to the District Commissioner and the District Commissioner wrote another letter to the District Education Officer. They also met each other at golf but there were many things to discuss other than a school at Patrol Post 'X'.
Eventually a letter came back from the D.E.O. through the D.C. and D.O., that no money was available to build a school and stating the few available new teachers were already posted for the following year. The D.E.O. indicated that three teachers might be available in 18 months.
The P.O. knew the D.E.O. personally and contacted him direct on the RTZ teleradio and informed him that the station staff and surrounding villagers were so anxious to have a school that hundreds of volunteer labour had come into the station and had already partly completed the school.
The D.E.O. had just come back from a short course at the London School of Economics and this sounded romantically similar to lectures, given by an Indian, he had attended and on a new method called 'Community Development'.
The D.E.O. was interested and promised a tour of inspection after the Christmas vacation and, if all was in order, could possibly direct three teachers to this project.
There was no school at Patrol Post 'X' nor had one been conceived of by the people, because they did not know what a school was. The P.O. sat down to plan the project and the first thing was to study the availability of money and manpower. His funds were as follows:
£1000 Minor New Works (Excavation airstrip)
£ 150 Minor New Works (establishment of latrines)
£ 800 Purchase fresh foods for prisoners
£ 400 Payment of carriers
£ 200 Incidentals
Out of these funds he very quickly calculated he could misappropriate £1,500 for the new school project.
In the absence of two other literate officers all he had to do was sign them three times in the capacity of authorising officer, paying officer and certifying officer. The P.O. had to be especially careful about this because some contingencies had been returned by Treasury in the past because one signature was lacking.
The P.O. then had a meeting with administration employees on the Patrol Post including the police to study man-power requirements. The expert in this field was the Sergeant-Major of Police, a holder of several war medals and nearly thirty years’ experience in self-reliance, self-help and community development.
He had taught the P.O. how to be a magistrate and arbitrator as well as to avoid being speared in what was called uncontacted and uncontrolled areas. The Sgt-Major drew attention to a recent clash between two nearby village groups. 125 men were to appear next day before the P.O. for riotous behaviour.
Most of the able-bodied men of both villages were involved in the clash and, apart from the gaol being filled to capacity, the P.O. had considered there were the social and human aspects of having them away from their families for three weeks, depleting the villages of all its manpower in the particular season when subsistence was extremely difficult.
The next day it was resolved among the villagers that men women and children totalling some 250 people would assist in the project for half a day each for four weeks, with one meal provided, in-lieu of 125 men going to gaol for 3 weeks, with three meals and accommodation provided.
Court returns were duly submitted to substantiate a false requirement for vocabulary stores in meat, fish, salt, flour, hard peas, rice, soap and tea for it established a tremendous amount of good-will to give any volunteers who actually did come to assist the school project a hot mid-morning meal.
The additional calico ordered for the prisoners, who never went to gaol, would be the first two changes of dress the children would receive on their first day of enrolment.
Within several days the manpower requirements were adequate and 300 adults were well supervised and hard at work. Among them were 80 prisoners who went off without police escort in their own supervised teams to collect bush materials from station land.
Management was a small problem and as some long term 'trusties' who knew from past experience what bush materials were required were allocated as supervisors of village groups.
The Police were fully broken up into construction supervisors under the able management of the Sgt-Major. The sites for 3 married quarters, 3 classrooms and a sports field were marked out and levelled.
The pilot-owner of the Dragon Rapide that flew into Patrol Post 'X' was briefed on the scheme. His silence was assured because he also became the agent to purchase materials such as louvres, flywire, nails, screws, three-ply, hinges and stoves etc, from the coast; also several extra charters were paid for in cash out of sweet-potato money.
He also had the task of delaying the D.E.O.'s tour of inspection by one week and to ensure that space was not available for a surprise visit by the D.C., D.O. or the Auditor.
After the first week the project really started to take shape and evidence of structures standing, a new flagpole and stone-lined pathways drew the curiosity of many nearby villagers and their ready assistance in materials for thatching the roofs which were unavailable on the government station.
In the fourth week the outside work had been completed and work started finishing the interior of the houses and making school desks. 120 children (girls and boys) from the Government station and villages nearby and far away were listed in anticipation for enrolment.
Dormitories and gardens were commenced and orientation classes were started in the middle of the fifth week. A Medical Orderly, a Corporal, the office clerk and Sgt-Major's wife were class leaders. The Sgt-Major taught the children how to march and sing 'God save the Queen'. He took great pride in this as only several years earlier he had been to the Queen's coronation.
Finally in the sixth week the D.E.O. came on his tour to see the school buildings. He was welcomed not only by the school building, but massive cultivations around it, the flag flying in the breeze and 120 children, dressed in unbleached calico, singing 'God Save the Queen'.
In speeches it was related to him how the people had desperately wanted a school and how they had gathered their meagre resources together to build it. They knew his name and feasted him well.
He made a case study of their achievements and, although on completely false information, it seemed to fit in perfectly with techniques he had learnt at the London School of Economics. He wrote glowing reports to Headquarters and within another two weeks, three teachers were posted to Patrol Post 'X'.
Source: 19 Years & Counting in PNG | Nancy Sullivan Blog