PNG may be losing up to 4 billion in corruption

Papua New Guinea may be losing up to four (4) Billion Kina to corruptionevery year.

Papua New Guinea Independent Commission Against Corruption (PNG ICAC) Commissioner Mr. Andrew Forbes made this statement during the Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council (DPMNEC) launch of the Anti-Fraud, Anti-Corruption, and Whistle-Blower Policy on the 17th of August 2023 in Port Moresby.

He said there are reports of government departments or agencies alleged to have failed to ensure that money or resources are being distributed for the benefit of communities in the country.  

“If those reports are true, then this is concerning because communities directly suffer, said Mr. Forbes  .  

From a political and social perspective, this results in the erosion of public confidence in government.  From a legal perspective, it is potentially an abuse of authority and amounts to corrupt conduct.

He said this may impact the reputation of PNG which includes the risk of being “grey listed” by the Financial Action Task Force which in turn causes further harm to the PNG economy. 

Mr. Forbes alluded that the definition of corruption under its governing law is quite broad which allows ICAC to not only consider the conduct of a public official or public body but can also examine the conduct of any person engaged by a public official or public body. ICAC can also investigate an issue even where no public official or public body is implicated.

The Commissioner emphasized that the operations of the PNG ICAC will be very different from that of other integrity agencies:

  • A major aspect of its operation will be the conducting of prevention programs – this is a critical aspect of the proactive steps that can be taken to promote change. 
  • It can undertake investigations with the benefit of coercive powers.
  • At the conclusion of an investigation, the Commission may make findings about corruption allegations and make recommendations on a course of action others may take.  (It may also bring a prosecution).
  • It will work with other agencies to ensure there is a conclusion to an investigation/issue (which could involve seeking an outcome by negotiation or without the need for formal steps (ICAC won’t set and forget).
  • ICAC will over time collect statistics that will assist in identifying areas of vulnerability and be used to enhance government policies and systems.

He said ICAC’s prevention function will be placing a significant focus upon bringing about change by working with the public and private sectors to implement processes that will reduce the temptation of corruption, or at least allow it to be revealed a little more easily. 

“Prevention programs allow for proactive, rather than reactive steps to be taken and again sets ICAC apart from other integrity agencies”, he said.

Mr. Forbes further stressed that the Organic Law makes it clear that there must be cooperation and collaboration between the Commission and the departments and agencies to achieve what is an enormous task of reducing corruption.  

He said the legislative framework that is the focus of today’s launch provides the basis for positive change, change that will better the people of PNG. It will take time, but we must start now. “While ICAC is one instrument of that change, it cannot do it alone. All stakeholders must be determined and work together to prioritize reducing and preventing corruption. All must act in the public interest and without regard to personal interests”, Mr. Forbes said.