Last supper for soldiers

Main Stories, National

SOLDIERS in military barracks around the country may find themselves with no food starting tomorrow.
Catering firm Nationwide Catering Service (NCS) yesterday told senior PNG Defence Force officials the last meal for soldiers would be dinner served this evening.
NCS claimed the Defence Department owes them K8 million in outstanding bills.
Senior Defence officials are disputing this, saying they owe the company a figure much lower.
But it is not disputed that NCS is owed money. They had threatened to shut down the messing facilities last November, but the Treasury Department released K3.5 million just in time to save face.
Defence officials said NCS managers were meeting with Defence secretary Fred Punangi and Defence Minister Bob Dadae to work out a solution to prevent soldiers going hungry.
Mr Punangi then had an urgent meeting with Treasury secretary Simon Tosali to find the money to pay the contractor.
The barracks to be affected included Defence headquarters’ Murray Barracks, Taurama and Goldie, Moem in Wewak, Igam in Lae, Lombrum (Manus) and Kerowil in Jiwaka.
It could also affect Defence forward bases in Tabubil and Vanimo.
Nationwide Catering Services recently signed a contract to continue providing catering service for the army for another five years.
Their previous contract was worth K9.5 million a year, according to figures provided by Defence officials.
The company was to bill the Defence Department K750,000 every month.
An official said the problem was with the billing system used by the catering company.
“Sometimes they bill us over the monthly requirement.
“We then run into arrears, and they charge interest on top of that, so that is why Mr Punangi is contesting the way they (NCS) bill us,” an official said.
But the Defence Force also has outstanding bills to pay utility providers like PNG Power, Telikom and Eda Ranu.
“We owe these organisations a lot of money, running into the millions of kina, dating back to last year,” a Defence ministry official said.
NCS officials could not be reached for comments yesterday.