By DALE LUMA
The PNG Manufacturers Council fears that the K500,000 fine which will be imposed on businesses which fail to comply with Covid-19 protocols may be used by the Government to raise revenue.
Council chief executive officer Chey Scovell said it was “unlike any other laws” because the fines were put in place before the Government explained to the public and businesses the processes for compliance.
Scovell said there was no clear explanation on individuals, vehicles or businesses deemed to be exempted from some restrictions, and what the processes were to obtain such exemptions.
“Compliant businesses have in place measures that are traceable (auditable) and appropriate to ensure the intent of the orders are being met (minimising the likelihood of transmission),” Scovell said.
He said council members “at increased costs have ramped up awareness/education, monitoring and enforcement of hygiene and personal protective equipment”.
“(They are also) constantly working on building a culture in which employees are encouraged to report when they are feeling unwell and (in need of) medical attention,” he said.
“Notwithstanding our full commitment on implementing safe practices, the amount of this fine appears to be grossly disproportionate to other fines in our legal frameworks.
“In an environment where business confidence is at an all-time low, when jobs and revenue flows are needed most, I am fearful that such an exorbitant fine will be used primarily to raise revenue.
“Government is encouraged to have a balanced mix of carrots and sticks, so to speak. To date, we are seeing lots of sticks (but) no carrots.”
He said the council and other business associations had always been ready to assist the Government deal with non-compliant businesses for years.
“There seems to be little interest in employers (who) are not paying minimum wages and superannuation, businesses that don’t pay taxes or illegally acquire land,” he said.
“(In) this environment of continued care, we are now going to see an enforcement effort of chasing up to K500,000 from small and large businesses which might have an employee walk on to the premises without a mask.”
Fines announced by National Pandemic Controller David Manning for a breach of orders include:
- K50,000 or a jail term of up to five years in prison for individuals;
- K500,000 or a 10-year prison term for businesses.