Commentary by FRANK SENGE KOLMA
THE National decided to publish findings of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee because far too many reports tabled in Parliament are promptly forgotten.
After the chairman of the PAC tables the reports, there would be a flurry of debate on the floor by Members based on the chairman’s statement not on the substance of the reports itself although each Member is given a report.
Often, debate would be deferred to a future date which would never arrive.
The media, in turn, merely reports the little said during the brief debate and the chairman’s statement but hardly turn a page of the voluminous reports although each media house has access to a copy.
Information contained in the PAC reports are public property but no member of the public ever gets to access it.
So, year after year, the Auditor-General and the PAC report on the public accounts of Papua New Guinea as they are mandated to do by the Constitution and enabling laws.
Each year, sickening instances of gross corruption, abuse of processes and procedures, mismanagement, instances of political interference and so many other irregularities are uncovered and reported.
Each year, these glaring errors are presented to every Member of Parliament and every political journalist.
Mostly, they line Parliamentary offices and gather dust.
So many instances of corruption, lack of accountability and lack of transparency – today’s buzz words – are revealed every year.
But nobody is looking. Nobody is reading. So there appears, in today’s debates, to be a sickening dark shroud of secrecy.
There isn’t, and if there was, it is only the shroud of laziness.
Choosing the inquiry into the Department of Lands and Physical Planning was no difficult task.
While it is not a witch-hunt into that department or any person within it, land is the resource upon which all other development can take place in the country.
Government or alienated land is limited.
Responsible management of this limited resource is crucial for socio-economic management.
The findings of the Auditor-General’s report into this department, and later, the PAC inquiry into the same, is nothing short of scandalous.
Every conceivable error, irregularity, illegality and downright fraud and corruption that could happen is reported in this one department alone.
How and why it continues to function and indeed, why it is allowed to function, is a cause of wonder.
The enormity of the accumulated errors of this department is only surpassed by the Government’s inability to act on the findings and recommendations of the Auditor-General and the PAC.
And this is the department that is headed by the Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu.
The findings of the committee raises deep concerns about the entire system of Government, about deep-rooted failings and about Government’s ineptitude in acting on simple recommendations.
There appears to be a paralysis of action because simple recommendations and referrals made in 2006 and still outstanding today.
The entire department needs a total shake up as recommended.
All jobs need to be advertised as recommended.
We conclude with the PAC’s own concluding remark: “That such a vital Government department could have reached such levels of incompetence and be so riddled by illegality, should be a matter of profound national concern.
“The State must intervene without any delay to force reform, in the national interest.”