Confusion over pay for police in LNG operations

National, Normal

The National – Thursday, February 17, 2011

MORE than 100 members of the police special services division (SSD) taking part in operations to protect the multi-billion kina LNG facilities in Hides and Central’s Papa and Lealea area are confused as to who will pay them their allowances.
The confusion came after LNG developer ExxonMobil Ltd officially pulled out paying the officers and transferring the responsibility to the national government last Dec 31.
Concerned members of the SSD ranks told The National yesterday that they were not paid their allowances for services rendered to the LNG developer and the state since the beginning of last month. 
“It is frustrating saying this, but some of our members are yet to receive their entitlements,” the group said.
The officers said in the past, they were paid directly by ExxonMobil but since the change took place, they were yet to know who would pay them.
Their concerns were raised after other officers with in the SSD revealed the same disappointments on Tuesday saying they had not been paid for almost two months now and that they were rightfully entitled to two separate payments.
The members, who requested to remain anonymous, said if the government was serious about the security of the LNG project, it must step in and address their grievances.
They also suggested that operation Sunset Merona carried out in West Sepik and along the PNG-Indonesian border be scraped so that resources and funds could be redirected into the security of the LNG project.
“Is the LNG project important or operation Sunset Merona important?” they said. 
They added that Acting Police Commissioner Tony Wagambie was wrong to say that their allowance issue would be addressed by director of SSD Chief Supt David Manning.
“Anything to do with duty allowances for SSD members on special operations are to be paid by the police headquarters in Konedobu with the final approval coming from the office of the commissioner and no where else.
“The work of approving and processing payments for SSD members is with the police department and not the SSD directorate as suggested by the acting commissioner because the SSD directorate only signs the requisition form when the manpower lists comes in after members are on the ground for 21 days,” they said.
“The buck stops with the office of the commissioner and the police headquarters.”
Wagambie, however, said the officers concerned should not play politics with in the force as the police force belong to everyone and that they should see their director for clarifications.
“Manning is already aware of their grievances as I have already advised him and all they need to do is to see their director,” Wagambie said.
“They should not complain for money like children and go do some serious police work.”
Meanwhile, the group also claimed that service providers in the highlands were also owed money for the services that they had rendered to the SSD members who were watching over the LNG facilities in Hela.
That included hire car companies such as Islands Mobile Cars, Nuigini Hire Cars and accommodation agents like Gingin Guest House (Tari), Ekeyaba Inn (Moro) and Mendi Pentecostal Guest House (Mendi) all based in Southern Highlands.  
Attempts to contact ExxonMobil yesterday to confirm the allege changes in LNG police payment arrangements were unsuccessful.