by Allanah Leahy – EM TV News, Port Moresby
15 Australian officials from Papua New Guinea’s ‘Strongim Gavman Program’ have been dismissed from the country.
The program, which employs Australian officials in advisory roles in PNG’s public offices, including finance and justice, is aimed at strengthening PNG’s struggling public sector to ease corruption.
Prime Minister O’Neill has reduced the number of advisors as of this year and lessened their engagement on the ground, saying they are making local workers ‘lazy’, and calling for a revamp.
“They’re not able to take over civil decisions, they are over-dependent on consultants and advisers and sometimes many of those decisions are not in the best interests of our nation,” ABC Australia reported O’Neill as saying in a parliament session mid-last year.
Australian officials say the workers’ dismissal from public offices, including Finance, Treasury and Justice, will put PNG’s financial stability at risk.
18 Australian advisers now remain in place.
In an ABC interview, Executive Director for the National Institute of Public Affairs, Paul Barker, said a ‘number’ of government institutions are still in need of technical assistance.
“Certainly there are concerns the motives may be that there are some players within the government of PNG who do not want too much accountability… And who don’t even want the strengthening of some of the government mechanisms,” he said.