Excellence in Anti-Corruption Reporting Media Awards 2012 - Speech by Mr. David McLachlan-Karr, UNDP

10 Dec 2012

Good evening and thank you all for joining us at the 2nd annual PNG Excellence in Anti-Corruption Reporting Media Awards. While UNDP began this initiative in 2011, the success of this year’s awards would not have been possible without our partners; the British High Commission (BHC), Business Against Corruption Alliance (BACA), Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) and the ABC-NBC Media Development Initiative.

We are particularly delighted to have with us tonight the patron of the awards, Mr. Sean Dorney. A well-respected and lauded investigative journalist with ABC International, Sean’s experiences reporting in PNG made him the perfect candidate to act as patron and guide the journalists who undertake the challenge of reporting on corruption in PNG.

Yesterday was International Anti-Corruption Day, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, noted that the “cost of corruption is measured not just in the billions of dollars of squandered or stolen government resources, but most poignantly in the absence of the hospitals, schools, clean water, roads and bridges that might have been built with that money and would have certainly changed the fortunes of families and communities.”

Corruption negatively impacts Papua New Guinea’s achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and all future work in equitable human development. As such, tackling corruption requires the strong commitment of government, but it also requires the support of civil society, including the media, to hold the government accountable for what it does on behalf of its citizens.

Corruption and equitable human development are negatively correlated. The inability to effectively address corruption in PNG has severely impacted on the Government’s commitment and capacity to utilize much-needed resources to ensure social service delivery to the poor. The 2011 UNDP Human Development Report ranked PNG 153, with the Human Development Index showing a steady, if slow, improvement for the last two decades.

Generally speaking, the higher corruption in a country, the lower it will fare on the human development index. In other words, human development for all can only be achieved if corruption is tackled effectively.

I commend the Government for focusing on delivery of basic services at the local level. The recent O’Neill budget allocations reflect this priority. At the same time, allocating more resources to provinces and districts implies not only greater responsibilities, but also greater need and capabilities for transparency and accountability for the use of funds at the sub-national level. These capacities need to be developed quickly, in order to stymie corruption at the local level.

Management of the public purse poses challenges for many developing countries. In 2010, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found that accountability and transparency in the use of public money within all but five of 1000 government agencies was wanting. In 2008, the PAC estimated that in the previous 10 years more than $1 billion kina had gone missing from PNG finance coffers.

The abundance of natural resources in PNG is both a blessing and a curse; indeed its rapid expansion in the extractive industries sector presents new challenges for the PNG Government in managing this windfall from mining, forestry and related agriculture resources.

Tonight, our Overall Winner, Mr. Martyn Namorong, has won his award for his investigations into the hearings of the Commission of Inquiry in Special Purpose Agriculture Business Leases (SPABL) in the East Sepik Province in his blog the Namorong Report.

PNG is not currently a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a global initiative which aims to promote transparency for government receipts from natural resource extraction activities. I would encourage the national government to join this important imitative.

Data collected for the 2010 Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) shows that 85 per cent of those surveyed in PNG felt that corruption had increased over the preceding three year period. Sixty-five per cent of GCB respondents in PNG assessed the Government’s efforts to fight corruption as ineffective. As such, PNG is below the satisfactory levels set by the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

We commend the Government for ratifying the UNCAC Convention in 2007 and for making Anti-Corruption, Transparency and Accountability one of its core tasks. Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, in his 2012 inauguration speech, said that “the Government will not tolerate slackness, corruption and excuses for not delivering services which people deserve” and that it “is serious about growing our nation’s future through prudent and stable economic and political management.”

As a result, one of the first decisions of Cabinet after the elections this year was to approve the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy Task Force (NACSTF). The primary role of this task force is to implement the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2010-2030, which was developed after PNG ratified the UNCAC. Task Force Sweep continues to uncover numerous case of corruption in the public sector, with many arrests of individuals involved in the misappropriation of millions of kina.

This Task Force draws membership from key government departments under the leadership of the Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council. Its tasks are multiple and varied and include the development of legislation to allow citizens easy access to government information (Freedom of Information Act) to ensure transparency and accountability and constructive engagement with civil society in exposing corruption and promoting good governance. The implementation of these measures within the strategy will enhance the ability of the PNG media to report on corruption and I am pleased to inform you that UNDP will support the PNG Government in the endeavor of implementing this strategy from 2013 onwards.

The emphasis on political and fiscal decentralization also means that tackling corruption requires the strong commitment not only of Government, but also from civil society, including the media. Article 13 of the UN Convention against Corruption specifically recognizes the crucial role of civil society in addressing corruption.

Journalists have an incredible power – as well as a responsibility – to use their voices, and their pens, to raise the consciousness of governments and societies through their stories. They need to relentlessly pursue the path of truth, and hold firm in exposing corruption. Many journalists have navigated through murky waters and investigated powerful forces to penetrate secret webs of misappropriation and misdeeds.

Unfortunately, we know that it is not always easy for journalists to stand up and be heard. In our region and through the world, journalists have been attacked and sometimes even silenced because they pursued the goal of revealing the truth. As of November this year, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that more than 100 journalists had been killed in 2012 around the world. While some were war correspondents killed in conflict, the overwhelming majority were local reporters covering illegal activities such as drug trafficking and illegal logging.

But if journalists did not write and have their stories published, we know that it is our societies who eventually pay the cost – the cost in lost opportunities, in shoddy construction on public infrastructure and facilities, in poor or non-existent services, in lost faith in the future, in lack of justice and trust. 

Tonight, we see that it is possible for individuals to give meaning to the words of transparency and accountability, to make issues a central part of their work and to open a path for whistleblowers and advocates who wish to champion the cause of stopping corruption. 

While there were no entries for the radio category, the judging panel was extremely impressed with the caliber of entries in the other three categories and would like to congratulate all those who entered. The entries were judged on four criteria: local impact, future impact, content, and journalistic merit.

Our Television category winner, Mr. Mickey Kavera from EMTV, is a young Papua New Guinean journalist with a clear passion for reporting on local issues that impact local people. The three stories he submitted looked at corruption in the health sector, rural development and the logging industry. In all three he exposed the consequences on service delivery when corrupt practices were allowed to prevail, and his logging story was particularly well told.

Our Print category winner, Mr. Haiveta Kivia from the Post Courier in Lae, was our inaugural winner last year. This year he has once again proven his strength as an investigative journalist, exposing corruption by the former Governor of Morobe and challenging the authorities to do something about it. His stories were balanced and well reported, and showed his determination to continue digging up the facts at any cost.

Finally our Citizen Media category winner, and our Overall Winner for this year, Mr. Martyn Namorong exposes corruption at all levels on his blog the Namorong Report. The three blog posts he entered showed excellent all-round reporting. They put the reader at the heart of the story and they genuinely revealed corrupt practice during the Commission of Inquiry in Special Purpose Agriculture Business Leases in East Sepik Province.

Our decision to declare a blogger the Overall Winner may be seen as a controversial one. With no ties to any official media outlet, Martyn is free to report on what he wants and to report how he wants. But it is exactly this freedom that allowed Martyn to dig deeper than other mainstream reporters, to spend time gathering evidence and to provide a balanced report with no agenda. Citizen and Online media can be abused to bias a story in the favour of one person or another, but Martyn has shown that it can equally be used as a forum for fair and free reporting. We are extremely proud to declare Martyn as our Overall Winner for 2012 and know that when he undertakes the investigative journalism Study Tour to Australia early next year, he will proudly represent all PNG journalists.

Please give a round of applause to all our winners.