The Strategy That Virtually Guarantees An Overwhelming PNC Victory In the 2017 Elections (Part 2)
by WALI DAVID
In the first part of this article, I began to outline the strategy that almost guarantees PNG winning the 2017 elections in a landslide and puts the Prime Minister in position to remain in power for as long as he wants, even for life.
There are 4 different parts to this strategy. In Part1, the necessity of focusing the 2017 campaign on rural open seats and forget about urban electorates was explained. Following that, the need to politicize the Electoral Commission so that it came firmly under PNC control but remaining a government body was explained.
We will now turn to the 3rd strategy of the grand plan that would allow the PNC to win the 2017 election in a landslide.
GRAND STRATEGY 3- AT THE BEGINNING OF ELECTION YEAR, BEGIN TRANSFER OF LARGE SUMS OF PUBLIC MONEY TO RURAL DISTRICTS
This part of the strategy involves putting together a massive warchest to fund candidates. Specfiically, it involves acquiring and sending large sums of public money to reach candidates at the District Level especially (Regional MPs are a bigger challenge to get money too but they represent relatively few of the total members of Parliament). Focusing only on rural District seats (no fewer than about 80 seats) ensures enough PNC MPs being elected for PNC to stay in power.
This strategy ensures that the government in power, favouring the PNC Party, can outspend and totally overwhelm any non-PNC candidates contesting against PNC.
Following sections describe the elements of this overall strategy:
1… Ensure that no opposition party or independent candidates can financially outcompete PNC candidates. Non PNC political parties, no matter who they are, do fundraisers that maybe pull in K50,000 in an evening. The PNC, through Peter O’Neill, in contrast, has the easy ability to pull out hundreds of millions of kina through a spider web of nontransparent pathways, enveloping State Owned Enterprises revenue through Kumul Holdings, National Gaming Board foundation, and the K1.5 billion Credit Suisse bank loan to the PNG Government. All this provides Peter O’Neill with unequaled access to campaign funds for PNC, giving him an unsurmountable advantage. The movement of money cannot be detected by outsiders. No longer can the citizens of Papua New Guinea see the financial books of our State Owned Enterprises. Audits stopped being carried out on most of them 2 or more years ago. As a result, there is no way for citizen outsiders to see where the money is going from the SEOs or if that money is being used in legal ways. Absolutely no way of finding out what is going on.
2… Shift large amounts of public funds quickly to the district level. This was done successfully during the 2012 election using monies of the K500 Supplementary Budget brainchild of Peter O’Neill and Don Polye working in collaboration. That money was used to fund the campaign needs of both PNC and T.H.E. candidates, with other political parties left out. The money reached the candidates and the electoral districts through legal mechanisms especially DSIP (District Service Improvement Programme) funds. Other legal vehicles that can be used to get money to the district level is the PSIP (Provincial Services Improvement Programme) and LLGSIP (Local Level Government Services Improvement Programme) . The government does not make public how much money in these 3 financial vehicles is sent to each district at what time. This lack of accountability frees the Prime Minister to channel more money into the districts occupied by sitting PNC MPs and less money into the districts of opposition members or others, using the cunning strategy of delaying payments to opposition members while hurrying things up for PNC MPs.
One specific strategy to use in 2017 would be to give Opposition members little to no DSIP, PSIP, or LLGSIP funds for the first 6 or 7 months of the year, while keeping up on payments for districts represented by PNC MPs.
There is not a thing anyone can do to stop these manipulations. It is corrupt and unethical but difficult for anyone to prove clear intent on why Opposition MPs seem to be getting less money leading up to the election. Only the government has bottomless pockets in hiring the best available lawyers to defend themselves against any court cases.
3… Once transferred to the district level, use DSIP/PSIP and LLGSIP monies in a variety of ways to assist PNC Candidate Campaigns. In 2014, a very limited investigation (they couldn’t afford to do a more comprehensive investigation) into 20120-2013 DSIP money by the Auditor General found widespread fraud, abuse, and outright theft. Some of the report conclusions:
“ineffective spending of DSIP grants” “potential misuse of DSIP funds”
“likely instances of fraud and misappropriation”. “a pervasive breakdown in the DSIP governance framework”.
“The widespread and pervasive problems… show the program needs significant changes to its management and implementation”.
“Limited value from the DSIP funds granted when compared against the original investment criteria”
“Pressure from local MPs to ignore governance procedures to distribute funds to politically expedient projects”
[read more at https://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/auditor-general-dsip-ineffective-and-of-limited-value-payments-should-be-suspended/]
The Auditor General has no legal teeth to prosecute mis-use of funds. Prosecution must be handled by other government agencies, such as police or ombudsman. Unfortunately neither have resources to push these prosecutions in all but a tiny minority of outstanding cases. Chronic budget cuts have castrated their ability to function effectively.
The above chaotic situation means that Peter O’Neill can easily send DSIP monies at different speeds to the districts and those districts under control of the PNC can use the money any way they want with little fear of capture or prosecution.
4… Ensure low risk of being caught or prosecuted for using DSIP, PSIP and LLGSIP funds illegally. To start with, hardly any district level expenditures are audited. This is caused by lack of funding to carry out audits, investigations and prosecutions. The O’Neill government has long ensured that the Ombudsman, the Courts, the Police Investigative and Fraud Prevention Units, and the Auditor General are given nowhere near a sufficient annual budget to support the staffing and other resources to provide effective oversight. Only the simplest, most glaring, easiest to investigate cases can be pursued. It is safe to say that over 90% of cases are never pursued. Anyone like Sam Koim who dares try and find funding for other sources can be jumped upon as if he is the bad guy, with demands to know who is funding him. The reason Sam Koim has to do this is that Peter O’Neill’s government has successfully kept all these agencies at near starvation levels while it has been in power. Hardly anyone questions why this is happening. The system is thus stable. Current overall national government shortfalls in revenue allow the government to further financially choke the necks of any investigative or prosecution body within government that could strike fear into those who mis-use government funds.
5… Ensure maximum use of DSIP, PSIP and LLGSIP funds to serve political objectives, including vote buying. Although somewhere down the line, laws are likely to be broken, on the surface it all looks legal. For example Gaming Board Foundation monies can be provided in return for a proposal to MPs to use to buy vehicles and other attractive lollies at the district level, which then attracts votes. Opposition political parties and independent candidates have no way to compete against this. The government is mandated to use public funds for DSIP, PSIP, and LLGSIP district and provincial funding. Once the districts receive the money, the national government can easily turn a blind eye to what happens to the money. Considering the near absence of financial accountability mechanisms, the money can be mis-used and abused for political vote buying purposes. The national government can pretend it never knows what the money went for. Behind the scenes, selected provincial and local level government cronies who support the ruling PNC party can establish trust funds to receive the money, with the trust funds managed by themselves and other appointed political cronies. The trust fund money can be reallocated for infrastructure creation and contracts awarded to yet another set of cronies to build simple infrastructure that is constructed quickly and impressively enough to convince the average rural voter. The contracts can have built-in illegal kickback mechanisms so that the trust fund awardees get laundered cash which is distributed to voters outright in return for them voting for the PNC candidate.
6… Ensure that voters are satisfied with the products from the public money. Most rural citizens today realize that much public money meant for rural areas is stolen. They feel helpless to change that state of affairs. That is why rural voters in the highlands today do less listening or believing of campaign promises, and more demanding of cash or other benefits up front. Candidates who buy votes, in turn, are now making more effort to ensure that those who receive the vote bribes in fact vote for the candidate who paid them.
There are many things other than cash that voters will accept. Temporary special candidate clubs that have bottomless free alcohol on demand are common in many parts of the highlands. Creating local infrastructures is probably more effective overall than these more basic kinds of vote buying in attracting voter support. It is indisputable that Peter O’Neill made a brilliant investment in pushing members of his government to start building local infrastructure. The more honest MPs in government have embraced this challenge with passion, used their DSIP and PSIP funds properly, and now carry a strong advantage into the 2017 elections to not have to engage in any illegal voting fraud or vote buying to be re-elected handily. Any government MPs who has managed to construct more local infrastructure than their predecessors goes into the 2017 election with great advantage.
7… Use creative allocation of infrastructure contracts and transfer of public money into private pockets of local level powers to develops an LLG level of warlords who campaign on behalf of PNC candidates. Once money has reached the district level, it can be used to play the role that distributing pig meat filled traditionally in highlands societies. The smartest of the LLG Presidents, MPs or MP candidates or regional MPs know that they need to distribute the wealth to the most influential people in the electorate to get their backing. They can easily do this through ‘projects’ and their associated cargo (such as vehicle purchase), infrastructure building contracts, and kickback money laundered cash. The influential people, in turn, will rally their people to vote for whoever delivered the cargo, even if those voters individually had resisted ‘money for vote’ bribery.
The system just described has been in place for some time. It has already proven useful and accepted by corrupt and non-corrupt MPs in government. Those who are honest use the DSIP, PSIP and LLPSIP monies in honest ways and ensure that there are results to show for it. The voters see the results and more likely to vote for the candidate. Corrupt MPs will use the DSIP, PSIP and LLPSIP money corruptly but so long as that corruption only relates to bringing in the votes at election time, their campaign could be supported by the government and the result would be a win-win situation for the political party as well as for the candidate. Only for candidates who steal the public funds rather than use the money strategically to hold onto power are likely to be dumped by the political party but only if it looks like the MP is no longer popular with voters.
The only difference between election and non-election years is that during election years, more money will be pumped down the pipeline to the districts and more of that money is likely to be used more directly and more illegally to fund political campaigning of the party in power.
The last part of this article (Part 3) will follow.