PNG Explores Text Messaging Plan To Fight Corruption

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Whistle-blowers could provide anonymous tips via mobile phone

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 5, 2014) – Sending text messages to report corruption is the latest weapon Papua New Guinean authorities are considering in the fight against corruption.

Using mobile phones in the comfort of your home and away from the public eye to report dodgy deals will give PNG whistle blowers confidence and go a long way in addressing corruption, authorities are hoping. A "phones against corruption" initiative by the United Nations Development Programme and the Department of Finance, which was launched in July this year and trialled amongst 1200 department staff, attracted 1500 text messages from 384 different users up to September.

This is an average of 41 text messages a day, according to officials.

The pilot project enabled users to send anonymous and free of charge text messages to the department’s internal audit and compliance division for further investigation, in collaboration with the relevant state agencies responsible for criminal investigations and prosecution.

"Whistle-blowers have been living in fear but ‘phones against corruption’ now gives us confidence to report misconduct," said one of the project participants.

The next step, according to officials, is to expand the initiative to the general public. It is understood that separate awareness campaigns will be held to alert the public and get them to participate. As mobile phone usage and Internet access around the world increase, technologies are transforming society and opening up new possibilities for citizens to demand change and public accountability.

Lawrence Stephen, chairman of the PNG Chapter of Transparency International (TIPNG), told the Post-Courier last night it was an excellent initiative and the Department of Finance and the UNDP should be congratulated. "TIPNG welcomes opportunities for people to report suspicions of corruption," Mr Stephens said. "We welcome also efforts by our enforcement agencies to examine information received with integrity.

"There will be challenges. We have already seen efforts by the corrupt to divert our attention with lies and distortion of the truth.

"We can imagine propaganda machines flooding the service with false claims and reports. We are aware of the damage caused to individuals and families by spurious denunciation from anonymous neighbours in other countries.

"These are risks. But the opportunity for citizens to direct attention to offences is a huge step forward. It is an innovative approach to huge challenges."

Officials have indicated the enthusiasm of the project’s participants was noted and it is hoped the project will be rolled out next year.

The Department of Finance and UNDP initiative – if managed with integrity and efficiency – could be "great gift" in the fight against corruption, said Mr Stephens.

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