The Corruption in Papua New Guinea

It is practiced by its leaders and others such as administrative heads, together with those who are in positions of making decisions for groups such as organizations, companies, NGOs and other similar organizations. The examples of corruption that these group of people practice has its origin in PNG and is not introduced by people from other countries. The diverse culture of PNG is responsible for this immoral practice being commonly practiced in this country. In some of these cultures, corruption was practiced and was accepted by people in those societies.

A classic example of those practices was the practice of hiring of assassins in the Highlands by warring tribes (Howley, n.d.) as mentioned in Pat Howley’s book titled ‘The Kom Kui who made a covenant with God’. The wealth which was given to the assassin can be viewed today, as a form of bribery or corruption. This traditional bribery practice and other similar corrupt customary practices are incorporated into the modern day Papua New Guinean society.

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The definition of corruption, found in Merriam Webster online dictionary states that it is a “dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers)” (Corruption, n.d., 1). And PNG is a Christian country this practice could be classified as an immoral practice. However, Christian principals state that that corruption is not right people keep on practicing it. This immoral practice is mostly practiced by the people who are being led by greed, and they want to serve personal interest rather than those that they lead or represent.

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There are a lot of types of corruption that are practiced in PNG. However, the most commonly practiced are bribery, misappropriation of funds, and nepotism(wantok system). These practices are affecting the way Papua New Guineans live, think, and feel about themselves and about their country. Corruption is robbing PNG and its people and is making them poor.

The misappropriation of public funds in PNG is seen as the gap where the people’s money is entering the pockets of their leaders. It is a faster way a person could be a rich in the world as many would predict. It is a practice where a fund is not being used for its intended purpose but is set aside for personal use. Members of the parliament and other leaders are well known for practicing this type of corruption. The leaders get more money for themselves and they give very little or nothing to their people. These leaders release false statements that the fund was used for a particular purpose. In doing so there is not enough money for service delivery and a lot of people suffer lack of basic services like roads, bridges, and health centers

Bribery is the most commonly accepted definition of corruption in PNG even though it is not the only type of corruption that is practiced. Bribery refers to the giving of something valuable to a person to persuade him or her to do something. Most briberies are given during the national elections where people are being bribed by the candidates contesting this seats in the parliament. In these elections, money is given to the people. Even students take bribes though they are looked up by their community as model for anti-corruption (Matbob,2012a). Most of these candidates who give bribery are the ones who do not come back when their people have a need.


The most helpful system of traditional Melanesian society known as ‘Wantok System’(a system in the society used to help one and other in the society) is not used for right reasons. Genuine requests are overlooked while priority is given to requests of the ‘wantoks’(speakers of the same language) even if they are not eligible. It seems to benefit only a minority group of people while those that suffer are many. This is a case of political leadership corruption practice the delivery of service goes mostly to those who voted(Matbob,2012b). The list of those who benefit from the corrupt practice is centered mostly around the person and his or her family and tribal members. These group of people enjoy the benefits while the majority suffer. This creates a kind of class system similar to those social classes of old Russia. However, in this system developed in PNG would be a system where people are classified by education, occupation and wealth (Atlantic International University, 2018). This system would separate the rich from the poor. What these corrupt officials do can be classified into two main categories. They let the people suffer by doing nothing and let the people suffer from lack of basic service.

There are some actions taken to stop and prevent this immoral practice. A better example of it was the set-up of an investigation team which was established as the Investigating Task Force Sweep in 2011 by the National Executive Council to investigate claims and allegations against office holders in the National Government. It was headed by Sam Koim, a lawyer by profession and is a Principal Legal Officer at the Department of Justice and Attorney General. He together with his team combatted corruption effectively. However, their effectiveness decreased as time went by when they stopped doing some of the things they did. It was mostly because they were not being funded by the national government. It was believed to be after they made an allegation against the prime minister Peter O’Neill (Cochrane,2015). The decrease in funding could be seen clearly seen from decline in the number of arrest being made yearly. The decrease does not say that he and his team had eradicated corruption in the country. However, it shows how powerful the corrupt officials are in avoiding this investigating officers. It clearly shows the investigating officers depleting resource and their lack in of funds. The group was last disbanded in 2016 but later reinstated by the court in 2017.

One would ask if the people have protest regarding this issue of corruption like what is done in other countries. It would be suggested that most Papua New Guineans know what a protest is but they do not know how to do it in the right way. The most recent time the people in the nation was a protest in Mount Hagen Town and in other centers in the nation and the town destroyed and people ransacked shops. It was organized by university students in Papua New Guinea (Tlozek,2016). Protest have seemed to be not having a good result or feedback. But instead, students who took part in that activity were terminated from their schools. And this clearly illustrates why people do not want to protest and take lead in protesting.

The desire to leave Papua New Guinea is in the hearts of the citizens and a main reason for it would be that they do not want to live in PNG because it is corrupt. “Corruption has recently been identified as a major driver of migration”, (Wheatland, 2015, p.1). Many Papua New Guineans would leave this nation if they were given the opportunity. They know it is something that is robbing their nations. Because migration is caused by ‘push and pull factors’ it can be stated that in PNG it could be stated that corruption is a push factor. Amongst those that leave great intellectuals also leave this nation. In doing so the human resource of the nation is decreased that would leave PNG with no one to rescue it.

Like the Papua New Guinean corruption, there were other countries which that had corruption being practiced in other countries. They have managed to eliminate this ‘disease’ and PNG should learn from these countries. A very good example is Singapore; it was once ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International but now it has improved to be Asia’s least corrupt nation. Some of its practices were that PNG should adopt for it to corruption-free are like serious laws like the Singaporean law of Prevention of Corruption Act should be enacted, adaptation by political parties as a party platform, create a strong enforcement unit like the Investigation Task Sweep team and enable it with adequate personnel and budget enforce anti-corruption laws fairly without using corruption as a weapon against political opponents, address causes of corruption instead of relying on anti-corruption campaign(Quah, 2016). These were a few of the strategies that were used by Singapore to combat corruption and they certainly did by eradicating corruption from their country and PNG if it takes on some of this practices it would certainly come in the rank among the corrupt country of the world and also it would improve the lives of its poor citizens.


  1. Cochrane, L. (2015). PNG anti-corruption taskforce broke after making allegations against prime minister Peter O’Neill. Retrieved from:
  2. Howley, P. (n.d.). The komkui who made a covenant with god. Madang: DWU Press
  3. Matbob, P. (2012a). Vot tru o sans moni?: A study of DWU students’ behaviour during the 2007 national elections in PNG. Contemporary PNG Studies, 16, 52.
  4. Matbob, P. (2012b). Vot tru o sans moni?: A study of DWU students’ behaviour during the 2007 national elections in PNG. Contemporary PNG Studies, 16, 52.
  5. Meriam Webster Dictionary. (n.d.). dictionary. Retrieved from
  6. Quah, J. (2016). Singapore’s Success in Combating Corruption: Four Lessons for China. American Journal of Chinese Studies, 23(2), 187-209. Retrieved from
  7. Tlozek, E. (2016). Papua New Guinea students ‘ traumatised’ by shooting as unrest spreads to the Highlands. Retrieved from
  8. Wantok system (n.d.). Retrieved from 23 April 2018, from
  9. Wheatland, B. (2015). Literature review: Corruption as a driver of migration. Retrieved from

Cite this page

The Corruption in Papua New Guinea. (2021, Dec 31). Retrieved from

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