PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 18, 2011) - Corruption ... It is the biggest problem facing Papua New Guinea.

Former top cop and Ombudsman, John Toguata brought the issue up at yesterday PNG-Australia Business Forum in Madang, not the first time he has done so and nor will this be the last.

Mr. Toguata now works with the Law and Justice Sector, a program funded by the Australian Government under its aid program, AusAid. Mr. Toguata should know about what he is talking about because he is at the forefront trying to fight this cancer that is eating away at the fabric of a country that is often described by many as the land of milk and honey and the land of plenty.

We agree, corruption is Papua New Guinea’s biggest threat. Forget about outside threats. There is nothing there. The threat is from within as corruption is linked to politics, business and the public service.

It is fast becoming a distraction for investors. This is also being highlighted in world business forums as a major issue preventing new business development in the country.

Corruption and patronage have become firmly entrenched and institutionalized in PNG. Bribery, kickbacks, conflicts of interest, vote-buying, and rewards for personal loyalty have become the norm in many public institutions. Senior civil service, military and police positions have become available for purchase.

Former Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta, decrying the same issue, described it as a system in which the "crooked" float to the top and the "clean" find themselves weighed down at the bottom. How true!

Young bright eyed Papua New Guineans with a genuine desire to take part in the development of the country soon get disillusioned when they can’t achieve their noble aspirations because their efforts are thwarted by a system of "you scratch my back and I will scratch yours’’.

Sadly, there seems to be no indication that the situation is immediately going to improve because there is nothing being done in a serious manner to arrest this cancer. There seems to be no political will or drive to tackle corruption. Mr. Toguata’s presentation is a chilling reminder to every Papua New Guinean about a major problem that we now must take ownership of and deal with as a country. There is a lot of talk about it but there is very little action.

The Government is paying lip service to the fight against corruption. This and past government have done little or nothing to deal with corruption.

There are cases being prosecuted but they are either lagging because there is not money to carry out speedy investigations or files have gone missing or investigators involved with these cases have suddenly been transferred to work on other pressing matters.

It is not about good anymore. It is about what one can make from the system. We need strong minded leaders to stand up and lead the fight. It is not good enough talking about the problem. We all know it exists but what can we do about it. We have to start looking a ways to tackle the issue.

And it must start with individuals, It is a hard ask knowing that corruption is so bad it has become accepted part of doing normal business, but we have to make this happen otherwise we can kiss this country goodbye. Enough talk, lets act on it.

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