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Port Moresby
May 29, 2020
News Your Vote 2017

The Code Vs Corruption and Elections in Papua New Guinea

Corruption is rife in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and PNG’s governments are notorious for corruption, where they run the risk of turning the state into a fully-fledged kleptocracy, according to The Economist.

The fight against Corruption in PNG was the initiative of the then Morauta government beginning in 2002. However, since then, corruption in government at the political and bureaucratic levels has become systematic (planned/ designed) and pose a threat to the wellbeing and the development of Papua New Guinea. The Morauta Government came up with the Public Service Code of Business Ethics and Conduct, which is called “The Code”.

The Code was designed to assist public servants in National Departments and Provincial Administrations to combat corruption. It was endowed with authority and issued in 2002 by the then Governor General Sir Silas Atopare through virtue of the powers conferred by Section 70A of the Public Services Management Act 1995.

It is a proactive and challenging document that was designed to assist individuals in Public Service Sector in the country to make a stand against corruption. Educating them to question their own actions to ensure that they are free of corruption, it is also designed to protect public servants from temptation and threats against the public interest that they will encounter in their work situations.

Hopefully, citizens of PNG elect one of their own every five years to be a senior statesman who can represent them dilligently, and to be in the legislature to bring changes to the already compromised systems. Thus, upon them they bestow all their trusts, confidence and hope through polls. The people expect better leadership from their representative and they do not expect any form of unethical or corrupt behaviour as far as the honourable seat of the land is concerned.

Bribery, misappropriation of funds, patronage (granting approvals or giving contracts in return for political support); nepotism (favours to relatives, friends and political associates); unauthorized political activities, abuse of position and power influence peddling are not the gifts expected by the people from their members of parliament. However, the people’s representatives and public servants rarely serve with integrity, performing their duties with dedication and love for people and nation, and work without fear or favour.

Ironically, leaders are readily equipped with trust and confidence that their people have on them, and the instructions provided and enabled by the constitution of this sovereign state to fight against corruption or any unethical behaviour in the public service sector.

Furthermore, the fight against corruption as initiated by the Morauta government was to be led and spear-headed by government officials, statesmen or officers of state. They are duty-bound to be good officials and perform their official duties in compliance with the rules and guidelines provided by the constitution of the state for the benefit of the state and its people. They are the ones who are to be leading in the fight against unethical or corrupt ways that are continually undermining the aspirations of the people and the development of the Nation.

In contrast, the fight against corruption has taken a new route. The very citizens who gave away their trust, confidence and hope have risen to battle against the enemy of the state, corruption. This is shown in social media like the PNG Anti-Corruption Movement (PNGACM), Facebook Groups, Blogs and also protests led by activists, unions, non-government organisations and students.

Activist Noel Anjo with team during one of his anti-corruption rallies

A government agency  responsible for promoting and protecting the integrity of leaders and to help improve the work of government bodies and investigate any complaint against them to ensure there is good governance, accountability, transparency and quality leadership in the public sector is the Ombudsman Commission. However, several other agencies like the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the Task Force Sweep Team have also been formed to counter-attack corruption in the country.

The state, via the Morauta government declared this war in June 1st 2002, and sadly, it has ended in the streets of Papua New Guinea with the citizens fighting it. They seem to be fed up being the victims of corruption; their wealth is gone, money is taken away, land is unproductive, produce stops bringing in revenue, the economy collapses and the list goes on when the authorities who are supposed to fight for them have turned to tolerate corruption.

Now that PNG is going into polling, these questions linger:

Who will be able to and solely responsible to fight corruption?

Do the leaders who win the election understand that they are mandated and vested with all the powers to tear down the hulk of corruption in this land?

Will the leaders after swearing an oath and read the manual (The Code) that provides the instructions, skills and techniques to tackle corruption, action it?

Lest the parliamentarians forget the codes that guide the office that they are occupying,  the duties that they are tasked to do and the people they are bestowed with power to serve.

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