ANDREAS HARA WABIRIA
In this year, to control the Chan-Okuk government ‘slush funds’ introduced in 1980 and the hundreds of millions of kina in provincial budgets, the national politicians enacted a self-serving law, the Organic Law on Provincial Government and Local Level Government (OLPGLLG).
During the colonial era and until 19 July 1995, service delivery at the local government and provincial levels were much better than today. Why?
This question can best be answered with two further questions: how involved is Local Level Government in decision making, planning and implementation of projects? And who or what constitutes the Provincial Government?
Since the coming into effect of OLPGLLG, all powers have been centralised in Waigani because the elected MPs decided they were not only going to be the highest decision making body in the land but, due to their warped judgement, it was better that they were also in control of the second provincial tier (by abolishing the Office of Premier and creating the Provincial Governors’ posts) and the third level (by creating the Joint District Planning and Budget Priorities Committee to be headed by the open electorate members of parliament).
Since July 1995, therefore, by a stroke of the pen, the politicians have the benefit of a law that serves their personal interests by giving them control over two constitutionally established levels of government.
To avoid a backlash, the LLG presidents were co-opted as provincial assembly members (or rubber stamps). At the whim of the incumbent governor, some of the LLG Presidents were made provincial executive committee members (equivalent to Ministers).
It is a joke when politicians talk about ‘bottom-up planning’, ‘inclusive government’ ‘transparency’, ‘rule-of-law’, and ‘service delivery in rural areas’.
Taking the concept of ‘bottom-up planning’ for example, the MPs are faced with a conflict of duties.
They are either concentrating their efforts to the neglect of legislation and setting the policy direction on the national scene; or they are involved in holding the chequebook and becoming a ‘project-manager’ in the villages.
The latter has been the case since 1995. It would be interesting to compare the number of laws enacted in Parliament pre and post OLPGLLG. And to evaluate the condition of roads and bridges.
And to calculate how many hours are spent debating important issues on the floor of Parliament. In the 1970s, in the Old House of Assembly, MHAs were still in the chambers meeting and debating at 12 midnight.
I know first-hand because I used to sleep in the back of a Ministerial car waiting for my dad, who was busily engaged in the affairs of Parliament until all hours of the night. The leaders of that era worked for their money, I tell you.
During the tenure of Somare as prime minister (he had cut his political teeth in that same era), a direction was given for a review of the OLPGLLG and I believe that finally, after eight years, it is being carried out.
It is now time for all Papua New Guineans and all concerned citizens and friends to come out in numbers wherever these consultations are held, and demand the separation of powers of the three levels of government, and let MPs be what they are supposed to be - legislators.