LEAH Kelo and Sydney Isaiah are part of a group of youngsters leading a campaign against corruption in PNG.
They have joined a network of students, businessmen and women, and community leaders and many grassroots people to speak out against corruption in all its forms.
Yesterday, Dec 9, was United Nations Anti-Corruption Day, and Leah and Sydney joined a number of speakers including Transparency International PNG Inc (TIPNG) chairman Peter Aitsi in calling on the National Government to do more than just talk about fighting corruption.
Many people say that corruption is inextricably linked to development.
There is no doubt about this. Corruption makes a nation weak, and its people poorer. It is agreed that where corruption flourishes, very little or no development takes place, and essential services like health and education deteriorate.
There are no roads for people to bring their garden food and cash crops to the markets.
There is no electricity. Children do not go to school.
Public funds meant for development are diverted elsewhere, to benefit a few cronies of those in power.
Since coming to power in 2002, Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has been forced to wade through a swamp of accusations and allegations of corruption levelled against his Government.
Some of the accusations that Sir Michael has been asked to provide answers for include the Moti affair, the alleged Singapore bank account with millions of dollars, the Taiwan cash for recognition scandal, the Finance Department inquiry, and Sir Michael’s own referral for prosecution for alleged misconduct relating to his annual returns.
Transparency International’s (TI) 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which was released last month, showed that PNG has gone from bad to worse on the corruption scale.
PNG dropped three places to 154th this year out of 180 countries surveyed.
TI said PNG was ranked among the 130 most corrupt countries in the world with scores below five on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 10 (perceived to have low levels of corruption) with no real indications of improvement in governance.
“This is a major cause for concern and TIPNG is calling on the Government to take strong action now to address corruption and instill good governance practices,” the anti-corruption watchdog said.
Compared to other countries in the region, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tonga and Samoa ranked better than PNG.
Commenting on this, TIPNG said there was a need for the Government to get serious about fighting corruption and protecting public interest and resources.
The measure of corruption and how badly it has affected us can be found in our ranking in the United Nations Human Development Report.
It is not very encouraging.
A recent report by the World Bank, AusAID and Asian Development Bank suggest that about 60% of aid posts have shut down since Independence, while the population has tripled.
Antenatal cases have dropped from over 80% in the 1980s to about 50%, meaning only half our women receive any care during pregnancy.
Over the same time, the number of trained health staff attending to births has dropped from 60% to 39%.
In education, our literacy and school enrolment rankings have dropped. There are few countries with higher illiteracy rates than there were in 1980. PNG ranks 167th out of 179 countries when it comes to enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary schools.
In PNG, the report says less than half of the population has access to clean water. PNG ranks 107th out of 118 countries for access to clean drinking water.
It gets worse when the population growth rate was higher than the economic growth rate.
The Government needs to heed the call by Leah, Sydney and Mr Aitsi to do more to rid the country of corruption.
Acting Chief Secretary to Government, Manasupe Zurenuoc, said this week that the Government was working on a number of initiatives to address this issue.
The PNG National Anti-Corruption Strategy is currently being developed.
We hope the Government will bring legislations to Parliament when it resumes next February to give teeth to this initiative. This will give us the assurance that we intend to win the war against corruption.