Post PNG leads in book-keeping

Editorial, Normal

The National, Tuesday, June 7th 2011

POST PNG sits like a light house on the bedrock of financial accountability guiding ships homeward in a grey and bleak setting that is the PNG public accounts system.
It is a small company, comparatively, after its separation from the former Post & Telecommunications Commission.
It suffers the same problems that all public and private bodies face in Papua New Guinea – high cost of labour, high cost of doing business, bad and deteriorating infrastructure and escalating crime.
But it does one thing exceedingly well that makes it stand head and shoulders above the rest. It keeps its books – a rudimentary requirement of any institution that the entire public sector of PNG has repeatedly failed for decades. It may well be the single biggest explanation as to why service delivery has failed in PNG since Independence.
Post PNG has an exceptional record and one that is worth praise and emulation. Repeatedly since 2004, this single wholly owned statutory commercial body has performed exceedingly well.
It shows especially in its ability to keep its books well.
Unlike all the government departments, all the provincial governments, all the provincial hospitals, all the local level governments and so many statutory corporations examined by the auditor-general, Post PNG stands alone as one that passes muster where its accounts and financial statements are concerned.
So much so that in 2010 the management was called in by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee for a very rare exhibition which was to congratulate it for exceptional performance. It is an honour that Post PNG alone has scored with the committee.
It is not perfect of course. The auditor-general found in auditing the company’s 2005 and 2006 books that it did not have a formal information technology continuity plan that would minimise adverse effects of major loss of process and capability.
When that was reported, the management of Post PNG advised that the new chief information officer was reviewing all functions, processes, and capabilities which would incorporate changes to the software and hardware.
When the auditor-general could find no formal written security policy or procedure for all key areas, the management again promptly replied but more than reply, it commenced with corrective procedure.
Year after year the auditor-general has been reviewing the financial statements of Post PNG and its reports contain very minor findings and recommendations.
Compared to almost every other government entity, the PAC said Post PNG’s “administrative shortfalls which would be found in any corporation, agency or businesses throughout PNG and elsewhere”.
The PAC said in its report to parliament:  “It is notable that Post PNG Ltd delivers timely, complete auditable and lawful financial statements which the auditor-general constantly finds are reliable and this performance is an example to all other government entities and corporations throughout the country.
“This committee is confident in the prompt replies received from the management of Post PNG and find that the company is addressing each of the matters reported by the AG in a timely, proper and professional manner.”
Post PNG is a rare success story.
As the PAC reported, “the management of this entity assumed a corporate wreck but has persevered and had turned Post PNG into an example for the rest of the public service of Papua New Guinea”.
We repeat the comments of the PAC and the AG in this space because, for too long, we have seen voluminous reports revealing the sins and mismanagement and bad accounting principles of the departments and government entities.
The story of Post PNG Ltd reveals that all is not lost. It gives the hope that good management and good financial statements can be delivered in this country.
It requires hiring people who know their jobs well and to set them the tasks that need to be done.
The success of the company further reveals that there are no magic solutions. It requires doing the mundane but right things religiously such as acquitting for all spending, big or small or keeping asset registers and updating them often.
It requires keeping up with international accounting and international financial reporting standards. It requires complying with the Companies Act and the Public Finances Management Act.