4 plan to sue IPBC

Main Stories, National

FOUR top Papua New Guinean advisers at the Independent Public Business Corporation are seeking legal advice to sue the organisation after they lost their jobs to expatriates in a major shake-up.
The four are Robert Nilkare, Brian Yombon, Kelly Kalit and David Kari.
They left IPBC last Friday after receiving their “termination payouts”.
The four were long-serving executive advisers to IPBC and were directly involved in the reshaping and restructure of State-owned enterprises under the control of the organisation.
The four were affected in a restructure of positions at IPBC. They had learnt of the restructure being put in place by IPBC managing director Glen Blake, but did not expect to be removed and replaced by expatiates.
They protested to the Department of Personnel Management about the manner in which they were removed and given “termination payouts” instead of “retrenchment payouts”.
Questions about the removal of the four officers were sent to Mr Blake’s office on Tuesday, but he did not respond.
However, a spokesman confirmed the removal of the four officers, but denied that they were replaced by expatriates.
“All four officers were employed by IPBC under contracts that have expired and I understand that the Department of Personnel Management is well aware of this,” the spokesman said.
“It is not true that any of them have been replaced by expatriates.”
But a source familiar with the shake-up at IPBC said the four expatriates had already started work, one in the Port Moresby office and three out of the IPBC office in Brisbane, Australia.
“Mr Blake has been operating out of Brisbane, running IPBC from there and the new employees are operating between Australia and PNG,” the source said.
“It is clearly a delocalising of positions at a premier PNG organisation,” the source said, adding the four were highly experienced and held tertiary qualifications.
The removal of these officers has raised concern about the future of some projects they were directly in charge of.
These include the multi-million kina Port Moresby Sewerage Project to be funded by a Japanese loan, the Yonki Hydro upgrade and the PNG Ports redevelopment.
With the PNG LNG project and the PNG Gas office coming under IPBC, their removal means the organisation is left without experienced people to deal with this project.
But another source said LNG matters were handled directly by Mr Blake and not by these four officials.
During a meeting with officials at DPM in a dispute over their removal and payouts, it was pointed out that they would be entitled to redundancy payouts under the Public Service General Order No. 16 because they were displaced in a restructure.
Two of the four officers whom The National spoke to said they would launch legal proceedings against IPBC if their negotiations with the DPM failed.
IPBC manages the State’s interests in various businesses, including shareholding in Bank South Pacific, Hargy Oil Palm and Oil Search Limited.
IPBC recently placed the State’s 17.6% shares in Oil Search that it manages in a bond issue, in order to raise money for the State’s equity in the PNG LNG project.
The bond deal became a controversial issue after the Treasury Department’s advice was ignored, a charge IPBC and several ministers vehemently denied.
The LNG project is expected to kick off in December if the final investment decision is made by the developers.