Administrative theory, interpersonal relations and anti-corruption practice in Papua New Guinea

15 May 2007

'Corruption' may be the dark side of the relationship between personal relationships and the work of organisations. The paper considers how studies of Public Administration, and related ideas such as bureaucracy, management and governance, have viewed personal relationships. It then links these views to corresponding approaches to preventing corruption. The third part of the paper looks at anti corruption activity in PNG in light of the relationship between personal relationships, the work of organisations and broader ideas of the public interest. Influential definitions of corruption suggest that personal aims may sometimes undermine the work of organisations. Transparency International, the anti corruption NGO, originally defined corruption as 'the use of public office for private gain'. Hong Kong’s anti bribery law criminalises 'unauthorised receipts of benefits'. Maintaining 'collaborative relations' - the first term in the title - may cause trouble too. In Hong Kong in the 1970s new recruits to the police were told they could ‘get on the bus’ of corruption, or step aside, but they shouldn’t try to stop it. To stand in front of the bus would disrupt working relationships, or worse. So corruption looks like the dark side of the relationship between personal aims, collaborative relations, and the work of organizations. Or perhaps it describes situations when these are at crosspurposes.
Given the difficulties of defining corruption this paper focuses instead on anti corruption as a practical, administrative activity. It has a life of its own, not simply as reflection of the amount of corruption, however defined, that might be going on. There has been a sharp increase in international interest in anti corruption since the mid 1990s. Anti corruption has been a concern of the PNG government since independence, when the constitution provided for a leadership code, which is administered by the Ombudsman Commission. The PNG police have had a long-standing interest in criminalised forms of corruption (and the potential for corruption among their own members). Recently there have been proposals for an ICAC, modelled on similar commissions in NSW and Hong Kong and for legislation to protect whistleblowers.

Peter Larmour approaches the relationship between collaborative relations, personal aims and the work of organisations (the title of the workshop) in several steps. First to look at how the study of public administration has dealt with the relationship between individual aims, interpersonal relations and the work of organizations. Shifts in the theory and practice of public administration, as it affects universities have been one of the drivers of the sponsors' interest in audit cultures (Strathern 2000). Then to ask how each approach addresses problems of corruption.

In the second half of the paper we see how these arguments help understand PNG’s anti corruption institutions: bureaucracy itself, and the leadership code. The last part of the paper looks at the proposed ICAC model (and the figure of the whistleblower) in terms of the relationship between collaborative relations, personal aims and the work of organizations.

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