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19 January 2017

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James Thompson is quite right: what many kiaps indulged in was indeed corruption. Any "black letter" judge would so find.

However, I think that, in determining a penalty, His or Her Honour might note that no personal benefit was obtained and the funds were applied for the public good, at least as the offender understood that term.

There was and is no unexplained wealth for kiaps to justify, just an embryonic transportation, education and health system to show for the money. I wonder what happened to it?

Perhaps, inspired by our example, a few of PNG's more unusually affluent politicians and their associates might like to follow our lead and confess to their own misdemeanours.

Fascinating to read of the extent of financial corruption by Australian kiaps in the past.

Even more amazing that such senior Australian officials now admit to 'cooking the books' and other illegal activities. Very courageous.

Aren't these the same people who complain about corruption in PNG today?

Ah yes, of course, the kiaps who dishonestly used Australian taxpayers' money during the Territory days were only doing so for the good of their local community.

None went missing. Phew, that's a relief!

Ross disappeared at sea while ferrying a yacht from South America (I think). There is a suspicion that he was the victim of pirates. The yacht and his body were never found.

His wife, Noeline, lives in Brisbane. Her sister married Roger Gleeson, the advisor at Dei Council circa 1968. Roger has passed on too - heart attack I think.

I remember Ross Allen as a tough and fearsome man. A dark spot in one of his eyes made him look all the more frightening. He came to the Catholic Mission at Mariant in Kandep to visit Fr Theis SVD one day in the early sixties.

He had run out of cigarettes and asked one of the pupils to walk all the way back to the Kandep Patrol Post - some 15 km or so to bring him a pack. I don’t know if he went to fetch it from his house or buy it from one of the two shops run by Andy Flower, Brian Heagney and a third one, WASO, run by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

The pupil must have been curious to find out how a cigarette tasted. So he had removed one of the sticks and gave the rest to Ross Allen.

When he found out the pack had been tampered with and one roll missing he did not say anything to the student but disclosed it to Fr Theis.

Ross Allen appeared next morning with a strong stick in his hands. He asked the pupil to come forward in front of the assembled students. And in the presence of everybody, he beat the pupil many times warning all of us not to steal.

To steal from the kiap while attending a mission school was a terrible mistake. He said he could put the student in ‘kalabus’ if he was an adult. This was an important lesson we all learnt that day.

The perpetrator ran away from school for good.

Fr Roche, the late Ross Allen indeed lost his life at sea off the coast of Mexico a couple of years ago.

Jim Fenton, the first resident kiap in Kandep, confirmed this to me and I mentioned it in my book 'I Can See My Country Clearly Now'.

Ross Allen's wife still lives in Brisbane. I thought I would meet her during my recent trip to the Brisbane Writers Festival but did not have the chance.

I remember Ross Allen in Hagen in the early seventies. I remember hearing him speak in a very positive manner about his experiences in the Highlands.

I would not have known him very well, but he had a very good reputation. Some years ago there was a rumour that he died at sea. Any truth in this?

At Olsobip circa 1969 when the West Papua crisis was on just next door there were two tin boxes in the safe. One was for the station slush fund (full of funny money) and the other was the emergency escape kit in case the Indonesians came visiting.

I think Mike Eggleton organised the escape kit. When I took over from him I peeked inside. There was a Failwolmin penis gourd and a tin of Kiwi dark tan shoe polish.

Like Jim, we were sprung by an auditor.

Happily, our funny money was stored in a tin under the office safe, not in it, so our station books got a clean bill of health too.

Ross Allen was one of the three or four people I have ever come across who I would consider "true leaders", a man among men. His passing left a gap in many, many lives.
Of course, all kiaps ran a "funny money" account, stored in the office safe as Phil described. Not once did I ever hear of any dishonesty associated with this financial system.
I remember when I was OIC Baiyer River, I was out with a couple of other kiaps and our police attending a tribal fight in the hills not far from the Hagen-Baiyer road. We had the luxury of walkie-talkie radios that day, one of the few occasions I ever remember using them. Someone down on the road called me and said there is a fellow from Treasury here on a surprise visit, wants you to accompany him to the Baiyer station so he he can do an audit.
I said, sorry I'm busy, come back some other time, and thankfully he agreed that would be appropriate.
Just as well he did, because I had about $1500 in the safe that was "funny", and for which I would have been in deep, deep trouble if he had found it.
He came back a few days later, did his audit, the $1500 was safely stored elsewhere, the books looked clean, and I was weirdly thankful that that tribal fight just happened to occur that particular day.

The term 'job satisfaction' is currently non existent in our society, only a handful of patriotic Papua New Guineans and few organisation are doing their job to get a better outcome.

As Phil has said, finding a solution to get a best outcome, although bending some rules not intentionally to defraud but to get a better end result.

Most organisations in PNG, both public & private, dealing in contracts are corrupted through what I call the Boomerang Systematic Awarding of Contracts.

For formality's sake the contract terms were usually published on newspapers for public bidding but actually, somewhere in one of a luxury hotels in Port Moresby, an agent (middleman) acting for the organisation and their crony or business partners were already sorting out approval or given the green light to be offered the contract.

Their meeting was to discuss the terms of the payment or the percentage to be paid to the key individuals running the organisation putting up the contract.

My question is how do these individuals feel when they use this dirty money to feed their family, purchase family cars and pay for their children. It is more or less feeding their family with something unhealthy or dirty.

No wonder many young & some middle aged Papua New Guineans getting into this corrupt scheme have already left the surface of our beautiful country earlier in their careers.

They forgot this biblical saying: "pei bilong sin em dai" - the wages of sin is death.

I agree with both Phil and Chris. That was basically how things actually worked in many cases.

The real question is why weren't there more cases of personal fraud as there appears to be now?

The only answer I can give is that our service was so small that everyone knew what we were doing and who to appeal to if we went outside of the 'rules'.

The rules were clear: Whatever we did had to be seen to be for the people's best interests. i.e. not for personal gain.

That aspect seems to be the nub of the problem. There seems to be a 'flow on' effect right up through the government or is it a 'trickle down'.

Other innovations were the new office buildings for outstations. No funds available, of course, but there were funds for kiap accommodation.

When I arrived at Losuia I was surprised to see that the new office was really an M Type dwelling. The same happened at Menyamya. In both cases my illustrious predecessors had "converted" these houses into offices, in both cases, the master bedroom converted into the ADC's office.

But the most audacious conversion of funds I ever saw was at Mount Hagen. In the days before the Highlands Highway was built and everything had to be airfreighted in, it would have been impracticable to construct from permanent western type building materials a decent social club.

Not to worry though, because the DC, Ian Skinner, managed to obtain funds for a new school building, with all materials airfreighted in from Lae and Madang. It did become a school from Monday to Friday, but on weekends, it became The Hagen Country Club, complete with tennis courts, bar, BBQ, and all other manner of facilities which Skinner had included by covertly altering the original design of the school building, all nicely funded by the Education Department.

The Club served the District well, and was a masterpiece of creative accounting.
_________

The Kundiawa Admin officers did the converse in the early 1960s - using the Chimbu Club as the Primary 'A' School during the day. The students and I got ascustomed to hearing the hiss of gas into the keg at 10 each morning as Transport OIC Cec ('That's right roar the guts out of it') Schultz popped in behind the bar screen for a quick pick-me-up - KJ

As Phil has rightly said, to be effective a kiap had to demonstrate a little entrepreneurial spirit.

When I was stationed at Baimuru, my ADO (Peter Harrison) was annoyed to discover that we had been allocated $3000 to purchase firewood during the year. This made little sense in a place where temperatures were rarely less than hot, humid and uncomfortable.

Worse still, in its wisdom, and despite the entreaties of the DC, the Treasury refused to allow us to reallocate the money to another purpose. Presumably, this might have spoiled the look of their budget documents or something similar.

So, there we were, with a goodly sum available, in theory at least, to do good things but no way to access it within the Treasury rules.

The solution was simple: I simply prepared a series of false invoices for the purchase of firewood, each in the name of a fictitious local supplier, who had "signed" for the receipt of payment by "affixing his mark where indicated". This was the procedure for those people who could neither read nor write.

The cash derived in this manner was used to pay for a 600 foot extension to the airstrip, as well as road building around the station.

Of course, technically speaking, what we did amounts to abuse of public office and fraud. After all, we could have pocketed the money, which represented considerably more than my annual salary at the time.

The point is that we did not do so. Instead, we applied the funds in ways that made sense to us given the needs of the station at the time, not some Treasury wallah in Moresby.

I would guess that most ex-kiaps can tell a similar tale. I think that it would not be an exaggeration to say that a great deal of PNG's early infrastructure was built using funds in this "innovative" manner.

Sadly, I fear that the very techniques we used to do mostly sensible and useful things have long since been converted to use for personal enrichment.

This was, with the benefit hindsight, probably inevitable. Our well intended actions effectively legitimised unlawful actions on the basis that the ends justified the means.

In my subsequent career, I sacked people for doing exactly the same things, the critical difference being that they were pocketing the money for themselves.

Still, I cannot honestly say that I regret what we did in TPNG. A great many good, even amazing things, were done by the people on the ground using money that would otherwise been simply returned to Treasury unspent.

To try and understand what's changed from the 'modus operandi' you have effectively described it is necessary to isolate the difference between then and now.

I knew of only one liklik Kiap who was running an small operation for himself and of course, everyone soon knew about it. It therefore didn't take long for his superiors to find out about it and he was ordered to pay the money back. I don't think he ever got promoted nor did he last too long.

The difference between then and now?

Was it ethics or honesty? I suggest it was the 'esprit de corps' of the service. The opportunity to 'spiv' funds was always there but the objective to use those funds for the good of what we were not funded to do but actually needed doing always took precedence.

Was it because we were well paid? I don't think our salary and allowances was all that great considering our working conditions and our attrition rate being in line with the parallel Vietnam war going on at the time. In fact, I suggest, most soldiers in Vietnam had far better conditions and a hell of a lot more back up and support than most of us ever experienced.

I suggest the real difference was twofold. Pride in our service and what we were doing to enhance the lives of PNG people.

To be able to get things done without the stupidity and cloying red tape and regulations was something not easy to forget. When we returned to our culture we were fish out of water. Mostly if we rejoined government service, we were put down and isolated as 'tainted' by our PNG experiences.

More then once, I heard the muttered expression behind my back when I asked why something couldn't be done: 'They gave them too much power up there!'

Perhaps a Roman governor heard much the same mutterings when he arrived back in Rome for some 're education'?

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