Pacific continues to face problems with corruption
Papua New Guinea continues to be perceived as one of the world's most corrupt countries on this year's Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
Papua New Guinea continues to be perceived as one of the world's most corrupt countries in this year's Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
The country has been ranked 145th out of 175 countries, with the report saying that abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continues to destroy sustainable development.
Samoa was ranked 50th in its first time on the index but some other Pacific nations are not on the list because three independent assessments are needed to qualify.
Jenny Meyer looked at the issue of corruption in the region.
The Chairman of Transparency International in Papua New Guinea says it's important to remember that first world countries can harbour funds from developing countries like PNG which are struggling to combat corruption. Lawrence Stephens says despite many countries not meeting the investigation criteria to be ranked on the index, many neighbouring nations face similar challenges to PNG.
LAWRENCE STEPHENS: You only have to look at some of the issues being faced by our neighbour, the Solomons, or the next neighbour, Vanuatu, to realise that they have immense issues of corruption that they're endeavouring to face. And it would be very surprising if it weren't the same for Fiji.
Lawrence Stephens says transparency can be improved by supporting existing institutions so they can operate better, publicly disclosing the beneficial ownership of so-called shell companies and educating people about what corruption is.
An Associate Professor from Australia's National University, Sinclair Dinnen, says bonds of obligation and reciprocity that are characteristic of many Pacific cultures, can complicate the picture of what corruption is, particularly when it comes to petty corruption.
SINCLAIR DINNEN: Obligations to relatives can certainly make the picture a lot more complicated than it might otherwise be, were those bonds not so strong. I think at the same time you see a more serious level of corruption where the sums of money involved are much greater and where it's very difficult to look at what's happening through the prism of culture. It's really a question of opportunities and basically avarice and straight forward criminality.
Sinclair Dinnen says solutions to corruption need to come from people within countries and cannot be driven from outside cultures. He says there is a growing anger and intolerance of corruption being expressed through social media in the region which is likely to translate to far greater accountability of political leaders.
The head criminologist at Australia's Institute of Criminology says organised criminals are looking for any opportunity to gain access to funds and one of the large sources of money comes from grant and aid payments from governments, making them an attractive target.
Russell Smith says criminals try and influence public servants who administer funds, seeking information to enable fraud to take place. Dr Smith says transnational crime now operates everywhere through the internet and online sources of information.
RUSSELL SMITH: Electronic funds transfers make it much easier to transfer funds. In the past people would have to obtain their corrupt payments in currency and then try and launder that using traditional methods. But now it's much, much easier and quicker, and more effective to do it electronically.
Dr Smith says a lot of corruption also now takes place in the private sector and the issue is just as pressing for businesses as it is for governments.
Meanwhile Lawrence Stephens says despite the low ranking for Papua New Guinea he says he's optimistic as there are people in government who sincerely want to see change and are working with civil society groups to improve transparency as PNG develops.
LAWRENCE STEPHENS:We're involving ourselves in the extractive industries transparency initiative, which is a really important move for a country so dependent on minerals and oil and gas. It will make information more readily available, and so strengthen the community to take action or at least be aware when things are not going as well as they should.
Lawrence Stephens says everyone needs to take responsibility in their work and simply make it clear they are not prepared to enter into any form of corrupt deal, even to the extent of giving small gifts to public officials in order to secure contracts.
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