By LUKE KAMA
THERE needs to be a much more rigorous drive on open data, open government and fiscal transparency to address the levels of misuse and distortion of public funds and assets in Papua New Guinea, a commentator says.
Executive director of the Institute of National Affairs Paul Barker said informing the public of the remuneration of MPs was a small but a valuable step, and knowing the considerable (net) earnings that MPs receive should help their electorates hold them more accountable over the use of those funds.
Barker made these comments after Madang MP Bryan Kramer revealed last week that ordinary MPs received around K12,756 in net salary per fortnight while ministers and MPs who held other offices as vice-ministers, shadow ministers and chairmen of a Parliamentary committees received much higher salaries with hefty non-taxable allowances.
He said it was also a major concern that the open MPs were also chairmen of district development authorities controlling the district service improvement programme (DSIP) funds of K10 million per district in recent years, and governors similarly were in charge provincial service improvement programme (PSIP) funds.
“There has been a severe lack of accountability with the use of these SIP funds in many instances,” Barker said.
He said Madang MP Bryan Kramer has received some criticism from certain sources for sharing information on the MPs’ remuneration but this, however, was information which was always available in the past in PNG and should always be available, considering it is the use of public funds, provided to public officials, or elected representatives.
“It is increasingly prevalent in countries around the world for information on pay, allowances and also assets of public office holders are made publicly available, through annual public postings online.
“This is occurring next door in Indonesia,” Barker said.
He said in PNG annual returns for MPs were provided confidentially to the Ombudsman Commission.
“That was a sound arrangement at the time, in the 1970s, but is certainly well below international standards for transparency now . . . particularly in the face of much greater levels of institutionalised corruption which are now prevalent in PNG, and which is eating at the heart of public bodies and the public credibility of the State and organs of the State and officials in the public eye.
“And to address the levels of misuse and distortion of public funds and assets in PNG and to start rebuilding public confidence, from public procurement to resource licensing/permits/land allocation and public expenditure, even awards and scholarships, there needs to be a much more rigorous drive to open data, open government, fiscal transparency, freedom of information and legal protection for whistle-blowers.”
He said information on elected officials and other leaders’ earnings and assets should also be publicly accessible online, whether via the Ombudsman Commission or the Open Parliament website or other such avenues.
By LUKE KAMA