PNG district development hampered by duplication of functions
Duplication of functions and political disharmony between provincial and district administrations are seen as factors holding back development of Papua New Guinea's districts despite a recent devolution of public service powers to heads of District Authorities.
A leading consultant in district development in Papua New Guinea says despite devolution of public service powers to district administrations, unneccessary duplication remains.
As of the beginning of this year, PNG district administrators became District Development Authority heads, with the power to discipline public servants who are not performing in remote areas.
The government said the law change allows districts to more efficiently address public service delivery problems, rather than wait on Waigani.
But a government consultant on district administration systems, Jonathan O'ata, told Johnny Blades the system remains inefficient.
JONATHAN O'ATA: I like the concept of giving more power to the district level but why did we reduce them to almost a desk operation? We're still building the bureaucracy - at the provincial level it is almost ineffective, and the real implementation at the district level has been reduced to merely authority status. In terms of powers of hire and fire, everything rests with the district administration. His (the authority head's) financial powers have been increased from fifty thousand to five hundred thousand - that is excellent. Now he can make decisions there. However this new law is still elaborating that all your planning must be in consultation with the provincial government. So that means, in the case of Ijivitari (in Oro province), if the provincial Governor is not in a harmonious relationship with the district MP, we now have a scenario of hostility wherein the district administration is likely to suffer due to political indifferences. I still think autonomous power of management should be give to the district to be more accountable directly to the Ministry of Provincial Affairs and the office of Rural Development.
JOHNNY BLADES: Rather than through the provincial administration?
JO: Correct. The provincial government is a big machinery that is chewing up a lot of administrative costs which can be carried by the district administration. There's duplication of functions here.
JB: But wouldn't it kill off the provinces if you were to sort of weaken the provincial administrations, wouldn't that really make it more difficult for them to get benefits out of development in the provinces?
JO: I think that the provincial administration should be reduced to an auditor function. Audit and evaluate and monitor function. They should not duplicate plans. That function of planning should be at the district and ward level. The wards know what they want. Why do we have a governor duplicating functions of district MPs?
JB: You've got quite a few levels. You've got the wards, then the districts, the provincial administration, and the national government. Have I missed any?
JO: You're quite right. The wards then come up to the district administrations...
JB: And what's the capacity like for the people who are working in the district administrations around the country?
JO: Terrible, terrible, trust me. I won't say the district names. But there are some districts where we've got people doing project co-ordination on civil engineering work and so forth. You've got literally no one to do the job so those who are dedicated to do their work and have shown some form of interest and commitment are automatically elevated to functions which they have to learn on the job. We need a new wave of public servants, and they lack housing.
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