Is PNG's government committed to tackling corruption?
A Papua New Guinea MP has been jailed for corruption and the Government is to set up a corruption commission but just how committed is it to ending the prevasive practice.
This month's jailing of a Papua New Guinea MP for misuse of public funds has highlighted the country's struggles with systemic corruption.
Paul Tiensten, the MP for Pomio, was sentenced to nine years hard labour for misappropriation of ten million kina, the first conviction secured by the government-appointed corruption investigation team, Task Force Sweep.
The government is now establishing an Independent Commission Against Corruption, though the jury is still out on how serious it is about fighting corruption, as Johnny Blades reports:
In Paul Tiensten's province, East New Britain, people seem satisfied that the MP has no one but himself to blame for copping a long jail term. His links with Malaysian loggers who have secured long-term land leases under the controversial Special Agricultural Business Lease system have hardly endeared Tiensten to locals. The SABL system was found by a commission of inquiry to have been almost totally fraudulent and to have allowed an unprecedented land grab by foreigners in PNG, with the assistance of a number of MPs. The former MP who lost to Tiensten in the past few elections, Francis Koimanrea, hopes the government will follow the inquiry's recommendations to scrap the SABLs.
FRANCIS KOIMANREA: The developer came in really, you know, couldn't care much what the people say. You know a lot of things went wrong with it. The forging of signatures, the frauding, and forgery, and you name it. Because the leaders, they leaders were offering money so that they can win the elections. And that was the primary goal.
Shortly after visiting the newly-jailed Tiensten in Bomana prison this week, the opposition leader Belden Namah said the sentence was a good one in that it sends a warning to anyone who aims to defraud the people of PNG. However he is concerned that Task Force Sweep has been selective in its targets. Mr Namah cites the Task Force announcement that Prime Minister Peter O'Neill was cleared of wrongdoing in the case of an unlawful 70 million kina payment to a legal firm by the Finance department.
BELDEN NAMAH: We must punish those who are involved in corruption. In that way, we will deter. ICAC is a very good idea. But my question is that: is Peter O'Neill going to use ICAC just like he is using Task Force Sweep team, that they are going to exonerate him all the time for bad decisions. Is he going to say all these signatures have been forged when they are questioned?
The Governor of Oro Province, Gary Juffa, says the Independent Commission Against Corruption is a good initiative but fears that it could be a white elephant.
GARRY JUFFA: You have to equip that organisation with the necessary laws, powers, et cetera, and also the appropriate logistics and funding to give it meaning. So that it can carry out its investigations and inquiries in a meaningful and timely manner, so that it has people who know that they're doing, so that it can take this findings to the next stage, that its recommendations can be acted upon, and they must be acted upon in a timely fashion. If it is done well, this organisation can also be a gamechanger.
Gary Juffa says the critical aspect of the ICAC is that it must be truly independent.
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