Why are PNG’s State Agencies Contributing to Political Fundraisers?
The Post-Courier reported on Monday that the PNG Party, led by Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah, raised about K2 million during their fundraiser over the weekend in Port Moresby in preparation for their campaign and operations in the upcoming General Election.
It was noted that guests had paid K25,000 per table to be present at the fundraising dinner at the Gateway Hotel, where the leaders of the ruling O’Namah coalition government were present. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill himself donated K150,000 to the PNG Party and acknowledged the support and confidence his coalition partners had shown in him.
The guest list included a significant number of corporates and law firms including Patrick’s Transport, Global Construction Ltd, L&A, Parua Lawyers and Bradshaw Lawyers among others.
It also included some more questionable guests, more specifically the PNG State agencies Petromin PNG and the National Housing Corporation – which begs the following question:
Why have these State agencies, in their capacity as state owned institutions, paid K25,000 of public money to attend a political fundraising event in support of a political party?
Let’s take a closer look at Petromin PNG.
Petromin PNG Holding Ltd is an independent company created by the Government to hold the State’s assets and to maximize indigenous ownership and revenue gains in the mineral and petroleum sectors.
Petromin PNG’s vision, mission statement and corporate objectives which together define its existence are absolutely clear. Nowhere on that list of guiding principles is a clause stating that Petromin PNG will invest the people’s money into political fundraisers.
This isn’t the first case of a State agency making the decision to attend a political fundraising event via the purchasing of a table. The fact that this is a relatively ‘normal’ phenomena which has become accepted, even by media like the Post-Courier (this was the real story which seemed to go unnoticed) is concerning.
This lack of concern throws light on the urgent need for campaign finance disclosure laws to be introduced to PNG. Such laws could prohibit State employees from engaging in political activities, including soliciting political contributions, while on duty or acting in an official capacity.
These laws concerning public employees’ political activity should be introduced for three key reasons:
- To protect public employees from being coerced into providing political contributions or services in their employment;
- To protect individuals doing business with the public sector from being coerced into contributing to any political fund or rendering any political service; and
- To separate governmental activity from political campaign activities.
Such campaign finance laws should also prohibit paid state, provincial or town employees, other than elected officials, from directly or indirectly soliciting or receiving any contributions or anything of value for any political purpose.
“Political purpose” could include fundraising activity on behalf of any candidate or political committee, including parties or dinners, on any level – local, provincial or national.
It would be interesting to find out from the Boards of Petromin PNG and the National Housing Corporation as to what government activity they were helping to fulfill while proactively financially supporting the PNG Party.
I do concede that some exceptions must be made for public employees to help support their political party of choice – this makes sense and should exist; but there is absolutely no excuse why State agencies are making political contributions to political parties.