THE National has been serialising the various reports of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee into several prominent Government departments and agencies over the last five months.
The reports themselves are well written and presented but the information contained are depressing. Each report is a chronicle of misdemeanors, flagrant and repeated law breaking, terrible account keeping, bad governance, misconduct, wanton mismanagement and criminal theft.
Reading these reports one gets to appreciate the depth of the corruption problem in PNG.
It is, therefore, a breath of fresh air to know that all is not lost, that there are a very few government agencies – literally to be counted on the fingers of one hand – that are exemplary.
On Wednesday, the Public Accounts Committee met in an unusual session. It met for a day to name and praise the few agencies that have risen to the task of proper management and accounts keeping.
The committee has made inquiry into nearly 1,000 agencies between 2003 and 2008 which in chairman Timothy Bonga’s words is a “unique undertaking”. It is now able to give an accurate picture to Parliament on the nation’s record of financial management. It will do so at the next sitting of Parliament next month.
Mr Bonga has given us a preview this week of what to expect. The evidence received thus far “shows that fiscal management and accountability by our public servants – and therefore by Government – has collapsed”.
PAC examined 33 departments, 25 subsidiary agencies including 19 provincial treasuries, 19 provincial governments, 303 local level governments, more than 400 districts, 19 urban authorities, 19 hospital boards and 116 statutory corporations’ commercial entities and all trust accounts including royalty accounts.
Of those, the committee could only identify five agencies which maintain proper, lawful, auditable and reliable financial records.
“Frankly, we are sick of hearing about failure, theft, incompetence, impunity and rampant financial mischief,” Mr Bonga said. Indeed, the rest of the community is equally sick.
Let us examine these five exceptional agencies. They are Bank of Papua New Guinea, otherwise known as the Central Bank; Institute of Public Administration; Alotau General Hospital board; Goroka Base Hospital board; and Post PNG.
Calling each management team before the committee, Mr Bonga congratulated them.
To the Bank of PNG governor and his team, Mr Bonga said: “Your predecessor and your managers have, for years, made timely, lawful and reliable financial statements and statutory records – which we would expect from such an institution. You manage a complex entity and the demonstrated professional capacity of your officers is a matter of national pride.”
The Central Bank is not without mistakes but the big difference is that “identified weaknesses are addressed promptly”.
To the director of the PNG Institute of Public Administration this accolade: “You constantly deliver reliable, compliant and auditable financial statements and receive excellent audit reports. This achievement is rare indeed and this committee congratulates you and your finance staff.
“We note that even as we meet today, your 2009 financial statements have been delivered and are under audit – an outstanding performance.”
Most remarkable indeed.
To Alotau GH: “We consider the (Alotau) board to be a model for the rest of the country. This committee congratulates your board on a job well done.”
There was a qualification for Goroka Base Hospital: “The board had real problems until four years ago. We recognise the improvement in performance – the establishment of systems where none existed, the submission of accounts where none were available and the very clear improvement in the delivery of services.”
To the management of Post PNG: “We are well aware of the corporate wreck that you assumed when you took over the post. We consider the performance of your board and your financial team to be outstanding and a matter of national pride.”
This shows that it can be done and as Mr Bonga said on Wednesday we also wish for this five to grow into 500 well performing agencies.