The Prime Minister’s announcement of an Administrative Inquiry into the Manumanu land deals and naval base relocation is just another exercise in covering up corruption and avoiding justice.
We have seen numerous lengthy and expensive Commission’s of Inquiry over the years but no action to address the corrupt behavior they uncover. It will be the same with the latest inquiry, whether it is termed as a Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Inquiry.
This is because such inquiries lack a crucial power – the power to take action against those revealed to be involved in corruption; instead all they can do is make recommendations, recommendations that, history tells us, usually get ignored.
Such inquiries are also flawed because their initial timeframes and budgets are often insufficient when they uncover so much wrongdoing. This leads to delays and sometimes the inquiries end up taking several years. They can also lack political independence, being appointed directly by the Prime Minister, and their reports can be hard to access.
This is why Papua New Guinea desperately needs a well-funded Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) with the power to immediately investigate and prosecute allegations of corrupt behaviour.
The Government of Peter O’Neil was elected in 2012 on a promise to combat corruption at all levels through the establishment of an ICAC. It has failed to deliver on that promise, and instead it continues to waste public funds on administrative inquiries whose recommendations are usually never implemented, and sometimes, not even published.
In 2013, the Commission of Inquiry into Special Agricultural Business Lease recommended forty unlawful leases be revoked, but those recommendations continue to be ignored. Crucially the Commission also failed to report on one-third of the leases investigated and failed to identify with clarity the government officers responsible for the unlawful land grab or recommend action against them.
In 2014, there was the Commission of Inquiry into Law Firm Brief Outs, that report has never been published.
Prior to that, a Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance found K 780 million in public funds had been stolen and recommended the prosecution of a list of 35 persons. Almost none of those persons have been arrested or charged.
And whatever happened to the Commission of Inquiry into the Investment Corporation, Defence Force Retirement Fund and National Provident Fund? Where are those reports now and why has so little action been taken?
Corruption in this country is prevalent in all sectors of society and its impacts are far-reaching! Corrupt activities are not just carried out by public office holders. It is really a collaborative effort of individuals from elected officials, appointed public and constitutional office holders, clergymen, civil servants, foreign and local companies, business associates and even family members of these individuals!
It is for this reason a well-resourced, self-funded, Independent Commission Against Corruption with wide powers is needed to investigate and prosecute corrupt individuals – not another pointless inquiry.