IT is good in a perverse way that there has been no audit into provincial governments and local level governments since the law was reformed in 1995.
Good, because there would have been nothing good uncovered across the entire sector of these second and third-tier systems of government were audits conducted into them.
And perverse because the whole system of Government has been directed away from what it was intended to do.
The Organic Law on Provincial Governments was ditched along with a string of other provisions contained in the Constitution when the Constituent Assembly met for the last time in August 1975.
It was reintroduced again on the back of a blackmail perpetrated by North Solomons province when it threatened secession unless the provincial government system was reintroduced in the Constitution. This, of course, led to the first amendment to the Constitution in October 1976.
The system of Government as proposed in the law was a superb effort with the benefit of experience drawn from countries as diverse as India, Germany and Tanzania.
Bringing government closer to the people and to empower them with political powers at the local and district level would ensure the people were intimately involved in decisions affecting their own welfare, so went the thinking.
Nation building would evolve from the meaningful participation of the people in their own development; that emphasis would be placed on development of the people rather than mere development of its physical resources, and that the principles of participation and decentralisation would go hand in hand with the concepts of consultation and consensus at all levels of society to build a just, fair and democratic society.
This was the hope and it was translated and enshrined in the preamble to the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
Such was the dream: clear, persuasive and free of nightmares. The nightmares, when they did come, tragically were in the real world. Within a year, the dream was given a shocking dose of reality. One province – North Solomons – threatened secession and to keep the year old union of hundreds of tribal nations together, PNG was lumped with a provincial government system it was not prepared for.
There was nothing wrong with the law. The error was human – lack of knowledge, experience and preparedness. As early as 1985, word was out that the provincial government system had failed the country.
By 1987, a committee headed by the late Sir Anthony Siaguru proposed a system of reforms to the provincial government system. Problems in electoral laws were at the same time discussed.
By 1990, a select parliamentary committee headed by the mate Finschhafen MP, Henu Hesingut, had traversed the country, engaged the people and put together the rudiments of a reformed provincial government system.
In 1992, the Ben Micah Committee of Parliament finally put the nuts and bolts of the system together. Following lengthy debates and legal drafting, Parliament repealed the Organic Law on Provincial Governments and replaced it with the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments.
At the time the law was passed, there were 59 matters pending which needed correction. We believe they were never looked at. Fifteen years on, the country appears to have come full circle where the second and third-tier of government system is concerned. The reformed system of government too has failed in its stated objectives – to demystify government, to lessen the political cost of government and increase service delivery to the people.
The Government remains as mysterious and unapproachable as ever, the cost has increased and service delivery remains a myth. The Government would be bankrupt if just one local level government were to take it to court for breaching its constitutional obligation to pay a certain amount per head as a grant to LLGs for every person each ward area.
The law actually calculates a per head rate at K12. Since that calculation is set in an Organic Law, it is incumbent upon all governments to pay that money to every LLG every year.
Failure to do so would be a breach of the Constitution. The Government has been in breach of the Constitution since 1995.