PNG MILITARY OWES UTILITIES $8 MILLION

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Six months of unpaid power, electicity bills

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 3, 2008) – The Papua New Guinea Defence Force owes Government statutory bodies PGK20 million [US$8 million] in utility bills, Defence Secretary Fred Punangi revealed yesterday.

Although Mr Punangi did not give specific details of how much they owed these institutions, he confirmed the defence force owed millions of kina to Eda Ranu, Telikom, PNG Power and others.

PNGDF owed Eda Ranu more than K4.4 million in water bills for the last six months and more than K10 million to PNG Power and Telikom respectively.

He said the cost of running the defence force was high and utility bills were a concern.

He blamed the Treasury Department as a setback for cutting one third of their annual budget to pay for previous years’ commitments. This year’s budget allocation was K18 million but Treasury took K6 million of that to pay off last year’s commitment.

But Treasury Secretary Simon Tosali said that this had been PNGDF’s problem – they had been facing the problem of outstanding bills year in year out.

Eda Ranu general manager Billy Imar this week expressed disappointment over the manner in which certain individuals or a group had broken a meter that controlled water into the PNGDF headquarters at Murray Barracks.

Mr Imar said such attitude could not be tolerated because the company had been in close consultation with PNGDF regarding their outstanding water bills.

HE said he had written to PNG Defence Force headquarters, the Finance Department including the Secretary and Commander and the Treasury Department over the last two months regarding the water bills which have amounted to more than K4.4 million but no response had been made to date.

Mr Punangi said these statutory institutions did not help the PNGDF in many instances.

"We approached Eda Ranu to come and fix our leakages but they are not helping," he said.

"Yes! we owe Eda Ranu, Telikom, PNG Power and others millions of kina but we have since taken measures to address excessive usage to water, electricity and telephones.

"Utility bills for us is a major concern and I must admit the cost over-runs for PNGDF is very high," Mr Punangi said.

"This year Treasury removed a third of the budget to pay for last year’s commitment and we are struggling."

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