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$59 million needed to restore neglected facilities

By Simon Eroro PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 22, 2010) – The Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) - once the pride of the country - is crumbling because the National Government has over the years failed to allocate funds for its upkeep.

PNGDF infrastructure and assets at its barracks throughout the country including Murray Barracks, the Headquarters, are falling to pieces while the army owes PGK27 million [US$10 million] to creditors.

The sad state of affairs in the PNGDF was the direct result of the failure by the National Government to fund the PNGDF under the Public Investment Program (PIP) that today it requires PG K160 million [US$59 million] to bail this institution out.

Defence Secretary Fredrick Punangi said yesterday that the PIP program, which is the PNGDF development budget, is supposd to cater for the maintenance of infrastructure and all its assets, including housing, aircrafts, ships, vehicles and other facilities owned by PNGDF.

He admitted that the department immediately needs K160 million and a submission through the Minister for Defence Bob Dadae was before Parliament to allow for K40m to be allocated under the development budget (PIP) progressively over the next four years to improve the image of the PNGDF.

"The infrastructure and assets of the PNGDF have broken down and have not been repaired over the years and are now beyond economical value," Mr Punangi said.

He said the department has under the recurrent budget received K21m for the utility bills which cater for water, power, telephones but this money has been exhausted because of the consumption rates but that does not cater for rehabilitation of infrastructure and assets.

Mr Punangi said the department is keen to rehabilitate the infrastructure and also implementing the Defence Council’s decision to install water meters and power meters to control consumption to allow spending to stay within budget.

He said unfortunately, the department’s user pay policy can not be implemented because its infrastructure were not improved.

The Secretary emphasised that the water pipes and power lines running into the barracks are too old and there was a greater need for new installations to give accurate readings.

"There are leakages and power circuits that continue to run uncontrollably which not only comes down to health and safety issues for our men and their families but also an extra depletion to the department’s budget," Mr Punangi said.

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