COVID catering scandal highlights govt failure to publish governance reports

The latest scandal over catering services at the Rita Flynn Isolation Centre, highlights the government’s broken promises to publish previous audit reports and break the cycle of impunity enjoyed by senior bureaucrats, says community advocacy group ACT NOW!

“The tsunami of corruption that is drowning our nation can only be addressed through greater transparency and public accountability”, says Campaign Manager, Eddie Tanago. “Yet the Prime Minister has repeatedly broken his promises to publish previous audit reports and to hold people accountable for corruption and mismanagement”.

In May 2020, the Prime Minister promised the people of Papua New Guinea that audit reports on the funding of COVID-19 operations would be made public, but that has never happened.

Last year the Prime Minister also repeatedly promised the audit report on the lavish spending for the 2018 APEC summit would be presented to Parliament. But it never happened.

Eddie Tanago says it is hypocritical for the Prime Minister to now be demanding Provincial Health Authorities acquit for their COVID-19 funds when he himself has not acquitted to the people of PNG for his government’s own spending.

“The Prime Minister and his government has to set the standard for others to follow and not fall into the trap of ‘do as I say not as I do’”, says Mr Tanago.

ACT NOW says it is also depressing for the nation to still be hearing about officers in the Department of Health abusing their position for private gain when the Public Accounts Committee has already conducted a major investigation into the issue.

The PAC produced two reports in 2020 on its investigation into the supply, procurement and distribution of medicines  and the alleged corruption and abuse in the Department of Health, yet neither has been made public.

“There is a culture in PNG of complete impunity for public servants and politicians. No matter how many times they offend, how serious the allegations against them and how large the sums of money that are stolen or misused, nobody is ever held accountable. Nobody losses their job. Nobody is ever convicted or imprisoned” says Mr Tanago.

“We have audit after audit and inquiry after inquiry, but the findings are usually kept secret, the people who are implicated in corruption and mismanagement continue in their jobs and nothing ever changes”.

“The Prime Minister promised his government would be different and would take effective measures to defeat the corruption that is denying people decent government services and a decent quality life, but all we see and hear are promises while the abuses still continue”.