BY PHILIP FITZPATRICK
What have we got so
far with our Crook, Clean and Mean project. Put simply, a compost heap that
merely smells bad.
I’ve been wending my way through over 100 pages of emails,
press clippings, blogs and other sources collected as part of “The Crook, the
Clean and the Mean” project.
Let me make it clear at the start, most of it is dross,
chaff, hearsay and piffle. The sort of thing that wouldn’t stand up in a light
breeze let alone the strong wind of evidence-based inquiry.
It is all rather disappointing. There’s been much ranting
and raving by commentators on this blog (and elsewhere) about corruption in PNG,
but no one seems to have firm evidence of actual citable cases.
Either that or they are not game to share it with us.
There is a distinct odour of PNG alarmism about the whole
thing; the sort of noises you get when there are rumours of sorcerers about.
The maddening thing is that we all know corruption is
rife. We’ve all seen the smoke, but no one seems to know where to find the
The usual comment about corruption is that the government
must immediately do this or the government must immediately do that.
Government is not going to do this or that when its
holding all the cards.
It has to be exposed for the corrupt fraud that it is and
forced to make changes.
What can we make of what we’ve got so far?
A large part of the impetus for corruption seems to be
coming from outside politics and the public service. That’s a bit of a
It works in this way. A company or individual seeking special
treatment, trying to do something illegal or just avoiding red tape, approaches
a public servant or politician and offers a bribe, which is then taken up and
the desired effect realised.
The cabals of lawyers working up false compensation claims
are a case in point.
While there is corruption initiated by public servants or
politicians, it is more likely to be in the form of creaming commissions or
selling privileges in the same way Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, tried
to do in the UK.
My impression is that corrupting influences coming from
the private sector is the greatest problem. Much of this is initiated by
The vast majority of the stories about corruption and the
misuse of public funds can be put down to ineptitude and stupidity.
The constant charge is “we don’t know what has happened to
the funds, we don’t know what the government has done with the money”.
When you track back, you find a plethora of stupid
decisions made by people who don’t really know what they are doing.
Sure, there is petty pilfering and nepotism along the way
but, by and large, it is idiots who lose the money.
In fact, many of the individual cases of corruption or
misuse of public funds are acted upon by the police and other authorities.
To cite just two recent examples, the head of the Southern
Highlands Province police has asked the Finance Secretary in Port Moresby to
investigate alleged unauthorised processing of about K200,000 by the Provincial
And, in the Simbu
Province, a prison
commander has been arrested for misusing K27,800 in public funds.
The SHP is a pretty wild and woolly region, and would be
the last place you’d expect crooks to be held to account. Maybe zapping the
little fish is a ploy to keep the heat off the big predators.
Obfuscation is a method developed to a fine degree in PNG.
It starts with half-baked report in the media, usually lacking in useful detail
and designed simply for sensation, and ends with the responsible politician or
public servant who reacts not because they are necessarily hiding something but
because they haven’t got a clue about what’s going on in their area of
There is also public cowardice in PNG. People sit by and
watch corrupt practises in action but haven’t the guts to do anything about it.
The consistent use of pen names on this blog is a symptom
of this malaise. Until the public
generates a bit of moral fibre there is little hope of changing anything.
The best result one gets from the public after the press hints
at yet another corruption debacle is outraged indignation. This seems to last a
day or so and is then forgotten.
In my experience going red in the face doesn’t do you or
anyone else much good.
What we have collected in our project so far clearly
demonstrates that corruption is always about money., although sometimes it may
not seem like it.
The recent amendment to the Environment Act - so people
can’t protest against damaging mining practices - may seem to be about politics,
but ultimately it comes down to profit and the politician’s cut.
The government says the legislation is designed to secure
PNG’s economic future, but who believes that?
This insidious sort of corruption is the most dangerous
because it has ramifications for the future.
What the corrupt cabal in government is doing, as it pulls
the strings on the aged puppet that is Michael Somare, is destroying the future
of PNG’s children for its own short-term greed.
And it seems to be doing so with the help of an
ineffectual and compliant opposition. Their motto is profit now and bugger the
PNG desperately needs three things:
A well-resourced and trained
A top-notch training facility for
public servants and administrators.
A really independent judiciary,
including the Ombudsman’s Office.
An independent media of the kind exemplified by the ABC in
might also be handy.
Something also needs to be done about the lawyers. They
are experts at bending and subverting the legal system for their own and their
client’s benefit. They do it all over
It doesn’t matter if something is patently immoral,
they’ll do it as long as it is at least marginally legal.
It is my observation that the legal fraternity, both
public and private, are the biggest threat to PNG, more so than any crooked
politician or public servant.
So what have we got in the barrel so far? Not much, just a
few names of errant politicians who are in the public domain anyway.
Come on, you complainers and critics, forget the righteous
waffle and the rhetoric, give us some real dope we can use!