Defence owes K14 million

National, Normal

ESSENTIAL services to military barracks in the country may be cut starting this weekend as service providers pull the plug on the Defence Department’s failure to pay bills totalling some K14 million.
Up until last night, senior Defence Department officials were scrambling to find savings to settle some debts.
The officials said last night that catering firm, Nationwide Catering Services (NCS), was owed about K7 million, and might stop feeding soldiers in the barracks in the country by the weekend.
Defence Minister Bob Dadae is said to be very concerned about the situation, especially when top military officials were taking regular overseas trips in light of this severe funding crisis afflicting the force.
Apart from catering, water, electricity and garbage disposal services are also expected to be cut.
“We are in a very desperate situation.
“We have written letters to Finance and Treasury requesting urgent assistance.
“We have held meetings with them. But nothing concrete has materialised.
“We are facing a shutdown situation,” the official said, asking not to be identified.
He said apart from NCS (K7 million), PNG Power was owed about K4 million, Eda Ranu and Water Board about K4 million, Telikom about K900,000, and the NCDC garbage collection unit was also owed a substantial amount of money.
On top of that, about K1.3 million in operating allowances for the PNG Defence Force forward bases have not been paid.
The officials said some cheques were raised and paid out to service providers this week, but they still needed about K14 million to settle all the outstanding bills.
The water, power, telephone, garbage disposal and catering bills have accumulated over a number of years.
Noting the huge utility bills, Mr Dadae last year asked the Defence council to have metres for water and power installed in homes of each service men and women, so they could pay the bills themselves.
Each service men and women were to get an extra allowance on top of their pay, to help meet those bills.
But this was never carried out, and the department continues to foot the bill for water and power at all barracks in the country.
Defence secretary Fred Punangi and caretaker Commander Commodore Peter Ilau could not be reached for comments.