The new Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct will help district officials deliver better services to everyday Papua New Guineans, Public Services Minister Sir Puka Temu says.
Sir Puka told the Precinct’s official launch that the new partnership with Australia would play important role in the O’Neill Government’s decentralisation strategy by ensuring District Development Authorities could properly manage a surge in public funding.
“The current crop of public servants who are now taking charge of the new District Development Authorities and the large volumes of funding (now available) were not trained to manage that level of resources,” Sir Puka said. “And therefore we need to catchup quickly.”
Sir Puka officially launched the Precinct with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and cabinet colleague Malakai Tabar, the Minister for Higher Education, Science, Research and Technology, last Friday (November 6, 2015).
Minister Bishop said that as a friend and development partner, Australia wanted to help PNG make the most of recent economic gains.
“Given the dramatic economic changes that have taken place in recent years, Australia is deeply committed – as is the government of PNG – to ensuring that the nation is able to embrace economic growth and sustain it for the future,” she said.
“A key element of that is ensuring that there is competent and efficient government at all levels. And in a robust democracy like PNG, it is essential that there be a competent, ethical, skilled public service.”
Minister Tabar said the Precinct launch marked the beginning of a new era in which public officials would be better able to make decisions for the benefit of all Papua New Guineans.
“To ensure Papua New Guinea continues its path to prosperity, we need to ensure our country has the high-performing, ethical and technically-proficient leaders, that can capitalise on our abundant wealth in mineral and petroleum resources, and map the course for future generations,” he said.
Sir Puka paid tribute to the PNG Institute of Public Administration – a key Precinct partner – and its Australian-funded technical advisers, for moving quickly to implement a new training program for District Development Authority chief executives.
“This is the level that we must move very, very fast on, because our people are demanding transparency and accountability,” he said. “Our bottom line is this enormous volume of resources must go and improve the education standard of our children, the health standard of our people… And therefore, skilling them, developing competencies, and building what I call this critical mass of middle managers in the country, is so, so important for us.”
Sir Puka said strengthening the nation’s institutions by improving the leadership capabilities of officials was crucial to ensuring future prosperity.
“I believe that with the new leadership that we will create, we will pick up the baton and deliver the vision that our citizens have, and that is an improved quality of life,” Sir Puka said.
The Precinct launch was attended by more than 150 senior figures from government, the private sector and civil society.
Ms Bishop said the Precinct’s contribution to nation-building would help transform PNG and its relationship with Australia.
“Of course, we want to ensure that over time PNG is so able to manage its resources and sustain this economic growth, that our partnership will again change in its nature so that we can focus on trade and investment between our two countries, rather than the aid-donor, aid-recipient relationship that it has been in the past,” she said.
The Precinct partnership between the Government of Papua New Guinea and Australia aims to strengthen ethical leadership capabilities in PNG and across the region through degree and diploma courses in public policy, management and economics.
An executive leadership program is also providing mid-career public servants and private sector managers with the skills they need to step up into senior leadership roles.