Latest posts by Anthony Deklin (see all)
- Papua New Guinea in mourning from cities to rural villages - February 27, 2021
- Obituary: Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare - February 26, 2021
- Where will Sir Michael Somare be laid to rest? - February 26, 2021
The Monday Edition of The National this week reported that Members of the National Parliament are practising nepotism in their Districts by appointing their own relatives, wantoks and friends into the workforce at the District Authority, and thereby replacing the public servants who work there. The Members apparently are able to do this by using the power to hire and fire staff a 2014 amendment to the District Development Authorities Act gives them.
This state of affairs has a number of important ramifications worth noting: The financial cost is an obvious one because it means public servants are getting paid for doing nothing, while the Member’s people’s salaries and wages mean the taxpayer is paying two people for one position. That was why the headline in The National on the issue was appropriately titled, “Civil servants get free ride”. In a country where money is always in short supply, this is criminal.
The second ramification is that we now have a new layer of government — DISTRICT GOVERNMENT— formed and sandwiched between the Provincial Government above it, and Local-level Governments below it. And to make matters worse, the National Member is both the political and administrative head of the new sub-provincial government with no clear line of accountability and responsibility to a higher level of authority to ensure policy conformity and compliance with the Rule of Law.
A country of only 8 million is over-governing itself with five levels (and systems) of government — national, regional, provincial, district, and local-level, with no clear links between them in terms of democratic accountability. For instance, to which higher authority is the Open Member accountable for his administration of the District Government?
A Member of the National Parliament is elected to govern the nation, not some sector of any sub-national government. The whole rationale of reforms of the decentralisation policy in the mid-1990s in linking the national government with the provincial government was to enable a better co-ordination of policy, but not to empower the national Member to play a substantive role in any sub-national government. That was why the national Member was meant to be merely an ex-officio member of the Provincial Assembly with neither substantive power nor position on the provincial level. Clearly, this is not what is currently crawling on the ground. It’s a chaotic situation, which the upcoming 11th National Parliament must sort out before it gets any messier.
No wonder the nation is in a mess because instead of governing the country, the national politician becomes a Prime Minister’s District Development kuskus, ferrying the Prime Minister’s service improvement program money-bags between Waigani and his District.
How low can a national politician go?