Catholic bishops are concerned that government funds are being misused in Papua New Guinea due to rampant corruption among MPs, which it claims is sowing chaos in this Oceanic country.
As a result of this, the Church has stopped accepting payments directly from parliamentarians regardless of whether the funds are budgeted or not.
By the same token, the bishops are rallying to raise awareness of how slush funds are being misappropriated and is encouraging Catholic-run schools, parishes and dioceses to follow suit.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands recently reissued warnings first voiced in 2011 about the abuse of slush funds for politicians’ personal gain. It has asked the government to address the matter and urged other churches and NGOs to stop accepting “free political handouts.”
Allowing MPs to allocate the funds at their own discretion effectively puts them in the role of financial administrators, which is not their mandate, said Bishop Rochus Tatamai, president of the bishops’ conference.
The bishops’ conference also questioned the legitimacy of a system that promotes these kind of free handouts and suggested it is having a detrimental effect on the mentality of local people.
It cited one of byproducts as being the unequal and unfair distribution of services, in a state sorely in need of assistance and which remains vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters.
Underscoring this point, July 17 marked the 20-year anniversary of a devastating tsunami that claimed over 2,500 lives in PNG. Experts marked the occasion by issuing another tsunami warning.