Govt failing to deliver


TEN months after taking power, the Government of James Marape has completely failed to deliver on its promises to tackle Papua New Guinea’s chronic corruption.
Marape was elected as prime minister on the back of a growing wave of discontent over political corruption and the misuse of public funds.
The initial signs from the new government were promising.
The Public Accounts Committee emerged from the shadows to hold televised hearings into the procurement of medicines and medical supplies in the Health department and secretary Pascoe Kase was quietly removed.
A high-powered commission of inquiry (COI) was appointed to investigate the disastrous UBS loan scandal.
Vocal corruption critic Bryan Kramer was appointed Police minister and ex-Task Force Sweep boss Sam Koim took command at the Internal Revenue Commission.
Meanwhile, the legislation to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption was dusted off and brought back to Parliament.
But the initial wave of optimism that the Marape Government would decisively tackle the chronic corruption that is undermining service delivery and impoverishing the nation has been dashed in the face of overwhelming evidence that in PNG it is business as usual.
The 38 of 40 Maserati’s which sell for around A$140,000 (K316,555) each in Australia are still sitting idle in a warehouse in Port Moresby.
Yet, the minister responsible for the purchase, Justin Tkatchenko, who falsely claimed that the cars were being imported at no cost to PNG and then would “sell like hot cakes” has not answered for misleading statements or the waste of about K20 million. To make matters worse, while some APEC vehicles are sitting idle, the government is again spending millions on hire cars to help with the Covid-19 response.
Nowhere is the lack of accountability more apparent than at the very heart of the prime minister’s own department.
In February the chief secretary Issac Lupari had his contract renewed despite the numerous allegations against him and the specific promises Marape made to Parliament last year that the position would be advertised and a new appointment made.
The announcement in March that the controversial Paga Hill Estate has been granted tax concessions as a Special Economic Zone is another example of a government committed to business as usual.
Despite the evidence of questionable land deals, political beneficiaries, human rights abuses and the previous record of the project CEO, the government has endorsed the project and all its grandiose claims without any proper economic analysis or public consultation.
Not only does the government seem committed to business as usual, it is very worrying that the previously vocal anti-corporation advocates among our MPs are so silent on all these issues.
Meanwhile the Ombudsman Commission which is tasked with policing the leadership code seems to have fallen into a terminal sleep.
While some may point to the current Covid-19 crisis and state of emergency as having stalled progress on the ICAC and the UBS COI, the truth is things were moving at a glacially slow speed even before the pandemic.
In the last 10 months, despite a smattering of arrests and charges, there has not been one prosecution of a high-profile leader for corruption or misappropriation and not one minister forced to resign or even temporarily step-aside.
The sight of the government now conducting its own “internal audit” of spending under the state of emergency despite the serious documented allegations against the Minister of Health only emphasises how far the Marape government has failed to deliver on its promises.

Eddie Paine,
Port Moresby

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