The court in Papua New Guinea sent out a strong message on corruption and its involvement in the electoral process as it sentenced an elections manager to seven years in jail, the highest sentence prescribed under the offence.
Former National Capital District (NCD) election manager Terence Hetinu, 51, was sentenced to seven years behind bars with light labour.
Hetinu was convicted for receiving AU$74,000 in bribes from Michael Kandiu to influence the outcome of the election for the NCD seat in the 2017 general election.
The NCD is the area which incorporates Post Moresby.
The sentencing took place as PNG gears towards national elections.
National Court Judge Theresa Berrigan in her sentencing said people entrusted with power and authority in public office must be accountable to the people.
“This case involved gross breach of trust,” she said in her sentencing.
“It should never be forgotten that free and fair elections are the foundation upon which every thriving democracy rests, ensuring that government derives from the will of the people.
“The right to vote is enshrined in the Constitution, and that right is sacred. The future of the country depends on it.
“As the country faces (general election), a severe penalty must be imposed as a clear warning to potential offenders, and to maintain public confidence in the electoral process.”
She said the monies were received pursuant to a memorandum of agreement between Kandiu, Hetinu and coordinator for Moresby North-East electorate Willie Winstand Ipuia, under which an unspecified sum of monies was made available to Hetinu and Ipuia for distribution amongst themselves, their families and for distribution ensuring the election of Kandiu.
Judge Berrigan said that upon Kandiu’s election, Hetinu was to be awarded all security contracts with the NCD Commission for a period of at least five years, subject to renewal.
Judge Berringan said the purpose of the Electoral Commission was to ensure free, safe and fair elections.
“Public confidence in the electoral process, and, indeed, those elected to office, depends upon the integrity of the Electoral Commission,” she said.
“Corruption is prevalent, as are efforts to interfere with the electoral process.”
Corruption in PNG
According to Transparency International’s global corruption barometer, 96 per cent of Papua New Guineans think that corruption in government is a big problem.
It said 57 per cent of people were offered a bribe in exchange for their vote in the last five years and 54 per cent of service users paid a bribe in the last 12 months.
In its 2021 ranking, PNG is ranked 124 out of 180 countries and has the lowest ranking in the Pacific.