Transparency International backs PNG PM's move on corruption | Pacific Beat

Transparency International backs PNG PM's move on corruption

Transparency International backs PNG PM's move on corruption

Updated 11 July 2013, 11:14 AEST

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, has announced plans to tackle various aspects of government corruption and over-spending.

He has directed all government vehicles to remove tinted windows and carry Z number plates to identify them as government property.

He has also barred several department heads from further overseas travel for the rest of this year after excessive expense claims in the last six months.

Transparency International, PNG, has congratulated Mr O'Neill for his move on government vehicles.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Lawrence Stephens, chairman of Transparency International, PNG

STEPHENS: Two things, first of all if the vehicle looks private, it can spend a lot of its time behaving as a private vehicle, and so is used in all sorts of matters, particularly police vehicles, they tend to become used as private vehicles simply because they have private number plates. That first of all it's a misuse of property, and secondly there's a security issue there where people sometimes use the vehicles for illegal purposes or to participate with others involved in illegal activities. 
COUTTS: So if they're essentially unmarked cars, they can be used for private use and families who aren't actually entitled to drive in those cars?
STEPHENS: Correct, that's the sort of thing that happens. That's probably the biggest problem just the use of vehicles in irregular illicit manner. Families using them as private property, driving them to all sorts of places and actually causing damage to them often as well. And then there's the question also of police vehicles which are unmarked occasionally you hear stories of them being involved in actually robberies or being involved in other activities which causes all sorts of problems in Papua New Guinea. 
COUTTS: I just wonder whether there's a general public safety issue as well? I know as a bike rider, I find when I have a car in the area that's got tinted windows you don't know whether they're watching to know whether you're there, so it's a bit scary if you can't see the eyes of the driver as well?
STEPHENS: I agree. The tinted windows are a pretty big issue here. Many people seem to feel that there is security involved in having the tinted windows. In my experience they also limit the capacity of the drivers to be able to see exactly what's going on, particularly at night and they're positively dangerous. But added to that is the issue that they hide the people who are in the vehicle, they make the activities of public servants driving those vehicles more secretive, and there's a tendency also for people to then use them for a range of issues which are nothing to do with their official role.
COUTTS: Now PNG press is reporting that there's a loss of trust or loss of faith in the PNG police force. Is this the first step in the build back of trust in the police?
STEPHENS: It would be fantastic if this were one of the steps in building back the trust in the police. I remember once a prime minister arriving in Mount Hagen in a dark tinted vehicle and the people there complaining that he was arriving as if he were a criminal. People do feel they have a right to see their public servants and in particular their police going about their work. And there is a suspicion that when they're hidden behind dark glass, they're not actually working but doing other activities. 
COUTTS: And do you know when this will start, are current cars owned by the government are they going to have to be refreshed if you like and have clear glass or will it be just the next lot of cars that they buy?
STEPHENS: Most of the tinting is actually film which can be stripped from the windows, and according to the Prime Minister's instruction that should have started as of yesterday. So we're looking forward to seeing that it has started and people will be watching now for government vehicles with Z-plates and government vehicles which have removed the tints.
COUTTS: Now on the other issue, there's a number, I think six MPs that have been barred from any further travel because they've exceeded their limits so far? What do you know about that?
STEPHENS: Again what we read, there's been instructions, not MPs by the way, but it's to heads of government organisations to refrain from further overseas travel for the remainder of this year, and apparently that has been brought about because there's concern that they have been travelling excessively. This occurs from time to time in Papua New Guinea. There is again a tendency to jump on planes and go to conventions all over the earth when in fact it costs the country a huge amount, and also means that those officials are not available for a lot of the work that needs to be done. Leaders becoming quite impatient about this and it's not the first time there's been a ban placed on overseas travel. It's encouraging to see it happen. The travel is extremely expensive and I'm informed by people with organisations like the World Bank that the rates that people receive for perdium for their travels from Papua New Guinea far exceeds those rates given to say World Bank officials which is proving that there's a lot of money wasted in this exercise.

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