No end in sight for Morobe’s bureaucratic ills

Momase, Normal

The National, Thursday July 18th, 2013

 In hindsight, Morobe Governor Kelly Naru’s deprecating remarks against his provincial administration the other day is just a chip off the block. 

The stewing political and bureaucratic situation in the country’s industrial capital is colossal and needs urgent intervention at the national level. 

The province had been without a provincial administrator (PA) since last month and most, if not all senior positions in the administration, were being acted on. 

Geoving Belong’s three-month acting appointment as PA by the provincial executive council (PEC) lapsed on June 20, technically rendering the seat vacant since. 

The situation had prompted a human resource official at Tutumang Haus yesterday to declare the bureaucracy a total sham.

The official claimed there was a PEC directive for a bottom-up restructure but it could not be implemented until a PA was formally appointed.

“You can’t fix the body if you do not have the head,” the official pointed out. 

According to him, all bureaucratic functions hinged on the appointment of a PA, including hire and fire powers. 

This directly contravened a purported recruitment exercise allegedly sponsored by the administration’s human resource division.

Naru had recently denounced the exercise in the media, claiming it to be illegitimate and improper under public service laws. 

Naru said yesterday the Public Service Commission was processing applications for the PA’s position and interviews would be conducted in due course.

But Naru’s displeasure over a seemingly unresponsive and uncooperative provincial treasury division was explained by the official to be a two-fold matter.

Firstly, the provincial treasury is a national function and the provincial treasurer (PT) is answerable only to the Finance and Treasury departments in Waigani.

The merit behind the arrangement was apparent but Naru’s concern stemmed from the time extended on bureaucratic processes while projects sat on the backburner.

“It is slower than a snail’s pace,” Naru had accused the system in light of a K30 million at risk of being recouped by the State when public accounts close.

“We cannot sit here doing nothing while time races away from us.” 

Serious issues of qualification and professionalism were also raised by the official about public servants in the province.

 “We are long overdue for a bottom-up restructure exercise starting at the LLG level, through the districts and into the provincial headquarters,” the official said.

His observation reinforces Naru’s remark that the province does not lack political will power but an effective bureaucracy. 

A face-off between the two arms seems inevitable and Naru had drawn the battle line with his announcement in Lae that he would take it up with the Public Service Minister.