Pacific Islands Centre for Public Administration

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea flagpapua new guinea_mapPapua New Guinea has a population of approximately 6.7 million. The Papua New Guinea mainland and its six hundred islands have a total area of 463,000 square kilometres.  Most of the people are Melanesian, but some are Micronesian or Polynesian.  Papua New Guinea has over 800 known languages.  English, Tok Pisin (Pidgin), and Hiri Motu (the lingua franca of the Papuan region) are the official languages.

The spectrum of Papua New Guinea society now ranges from traditional village-based life, dependent on subsistence and small cash-crop agriculture, to modern urban life in the main cities of Port Moresby (capital), Lae, Madang, Wewak, Goroka, Mt Hagen, and Rabaul.  Some 85 per cent of the population directly derive their livelihood from farming, and 15 per cent of the population live in urban areas.  Population growth is estimated to be 2.8 per cent annually.

Papua New Guinea has three levels of government – national, provincial and local.  The country is divided into 4 regions, 22 province-level divisions: 20 provinces, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and the National Capital District.  Each province (namely Central, Chimbu (Simbu), Eastern Highlands, East New Britain, East Sepik, Enga, Gulf, Madang, Manus, Milne Bay, Morobe, New Ireland, Northern (Oro Province), Bougainville (autonomous region), Southern Highlands, Western Province (Fly), Western Highlands, West New Britain, West Sepik (Sandaun), National Capital District, Hela and Jiwaka) is divided into one or more districts which in turn are divided into one or more local level Government areas.  The provinces are the primary administrative divisions and provincial governments are branches of the national government.

The prime minister, elected by parliamentary vote, chooses the other members of the National Executive Council (NEC) which is PNG’s Cabinet.  In practice the NEC dominates much of the decision-making and policy formulation.  Each ministry is headed by a cabinet member, who is assisted by a permanent secretary, a career public servant, who directs the staff of the ministry.   Most secretaries and deputy secretaries are acting and therefore can be easily replaced.  The capacity of the public sector to deliver quality public service remains limited.  Since the late 1980s there have been at least four attempts to down size or ‘right-size’ the civil service; however, this has proven a difficult challenge at both the national and sub national levels of government.  The result has been low productivity and low levels of performance management as a few key officers undertake many of the jobs with the greatest level of responsibility.  This also leads to a level of discontinuity in policy design and implementation, thus rendering capacity development largely unsustainable.  Aging workforce is a serious issue, especially in provinces, and limited intergenerational transfer of core public service skills is a concern.  Most ministries, agencies and provinces have human resource management units to oversee personnel administration.  There is an Institute of Public Administration which has the mandate to train public servants.

Through a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Department of Personnel Management and Divine Word University as part of the government’s aim to build a competent public service workforce public servants may pursue studies in Public Administration through the public sector workforce development program.  The Secretary of the Department of Personnel Management (DPM) John Kali said

“The (workforce) programme has been offering sponsorship for interested public servants to undertake certificate, diploma, bachelor and masters degree programmes at tertiary institutions around the country.”

This year (2014)  saw the first batch graduate at the Divine Word University and the PNG Institute of Public Administration with various qualifications. 10 officers from government institutions are currently undertaking a masters level course in public administration while 12 district administrators are pursuing the Bachelor in Public Administration.  The DPM will continue rolling out the programme as it realises its importance to contribute to leadership and good governance in the public service.  Secretary Kali encouraged public sector agencies to participate in the programme and consider giving equal opportunity to women.







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