The potential for anti-corruption reform in PNG’s public sector
By Grant Walton
The challenges facing Papua New Guinean bureaucrats are, undeniably, daunting. The country’s fiscal crisis has seen budgets for service delivery significantly cut. There are signs that politicians are increasingly interfering in the bureaucracy and side-lining public servants. In addition, public servants need to manage pressures to provide unofficial favours to kith and kin through PNG’s ‘wantok‘ system (an informal system of reciprocity). While the anecdotal evidence is easy to find, there is little empirical data on how and why public servants support or resist these pressures. This lack of data exacerbates difficulties associated with implementing anti-corruption reforms.
To address this research gap, a newly published discussion paper presents research findings from interviews conducted with 136 public servants across four provinces – Eastern Highlands, Madang, Milne Bay and New Ireland.
The paper examines how respondents conceptualised good governance and corruption, as well as their beliefs about the role of unofficial favours in the public service, causes of corruption, and challenges associated with reporting corruption. This blog examines what findings might mean for anti-corruption reform in PNG.
Most respondents said they were concerned about corruption. In turn, many had thought long and hard about what they and others could do to address poor governance. They suggested more training, improved mechanisms for reporting, and enhanced law enforcement. These are sensible suggestions given that only 57 per cent of respondents knew how to report corruption (more on this later) and the rules and laws governing the public sector are poorly enforced.
While such suggestions are worthy of serious consideration, findings suggest policymakers should not underestimate the difficulties of undertaking anti-corruption reform. More than 90 per cent of respondents believed corruption was common or very common in the public service; two-thirds suggested it is hard to get …read more