PNG’s fluid politics: winners & losers from O’Neill to Marape
What life is really like in (very expensive) Port Moresby

How decentralised funding became decentralised corruption

Jeffrey Febi
Jeff Febi - "If corruption was bad in Port Moresby, at district level it was worse. If corruption was secretive in Port Moresby, in the district it was in plain sight"

JEFFREY FEBI

LUFA - Over the years, successive Papua New Guinea governments did well in decentralising power from Waigani.

The establishment of District Development Authorities signified the completion of the decentralisation process, and also showed that the distribution mechanism for funds was ready to roll.

Disbursements of K10 million each year to the districts was the highlight of decentralisation.

These funds not only enabled districts to implement their development goals without having to face the Waigani bureaucracy, it also gave them financial power and, ultimately, the freedom to choose and fund projects and deliver services according to home-grown plans.

With this freedom and power, rather unfortunately, followed endless impairments of virtue and moral principles.

The K10 million became everyman's object of envy: district government officials, local businessmen, village leaders, church pastors, recent graduates, and village illiterates. In fact every Tom, Dick and Harry.

Beyond the scrutiny of government departments, which themselves are allegedly corrupt beyond measure, abuse in broad daylight grew.

Evidence of this is seen in the half completed classrooms that litter many rural schools across the country. In addition, many other projects didn’t see the light of day.

People who succeeded in obtaining a portion of the K10 million suddenly became household names and role models. Imagine the impact this connivance and greed had on children, who are the future of Papua New Guinea.

If corruption was bad in Port Moresby, at the district level it was worse. If corruption was secretive in Port Moresby, in the district it was in plain sight.

Decentralisation of power had also become the decentralisation of corruption.

And this will continue if the established system is allowed to continue. The government must urgently to review this disbursement system and make it more robust and effective.

The fight against corruption must be given a new lease of life under prime minister. James Marape. It must be rigorous. It must be thorough. And it must be merciless.

Perhaps quickly setting up the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and increasing funding for the police fraud squad might be good starting points.

Furthermore, applying the death penalty for those found guilty of corruption would go a long way towards fighting this endemic evil.

Unless this is done, corruption at the district level will continue unashamed.

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