21 Feb 2019

Embattled Paladin defends its Manus contracts

2:19 pm on 21 February 2019

A company contracted by Australia's government to provide security services to refugees detained on Papua New Guinea's Manus island has defended its record.

Manus Island refugees protest at West Lorengau Haus.

Manus Island refugees protest at West Lorengau Haus. Photo: supplied

The government's decision to award Paladin Solutions $US300 million worth of contracts on Manus has been subject to intense scrutiny before Australia's senate this week.

A statement from Paladin said the company is concerned by allegations in recent reporting by the Australian Financial Review and others about its Manus contracts and history.

Paladin said it does not have any bad debts or failed contracts, and does not make payments that are not linked to its service.

"We reject the notion in the media that any contract with a Papua New Guinea (PNG) entity is tainted by corruption - we find this notion offensive," the statement reads.

In a series of articles, the AFR has questioned the suitability of Paladin to win two lucrative Manus contracts.

Government procurement documents show the Home Affairs Department ran a "limited tender" for the contracts, meaning Paladin was the only party invited to bid.

The AFR estimated that Paladin's monthly costs amounted to roughly US$2.1 million. Under its most recent contract Paladin is receiving around US$14 million per month from Australia.

Furthermore AFR reported that Paladin's founder Craig Thrupp previously owned a company called High Risk Security Group that collapsed in 2010, owing $AU170,000.

Paladin's statement said that the report confused its relationship with High Risk Security Group, which happens to be the original name of Paladin Group Pty Ltd.

"Notwithstanding the similarities in names, we can confirm that there was some discussion in 2009 about Paladin Aus and the High Risk Group Companies pursuing work together," the company said.

"This did not eventuate, and the entities are and always have been completely separate."

A refugee stuck on Manus, the award-winning writer Behrouz Boochani, questioned why Paladin had such lucrative contracts.

He said many locals were working at the refugee accommodation centres on low wages, while Paladin's staff did little other than monitor the compounds.

Paladin defended its sub-contracting, saying it employed over 97 percent PNG nationals across its workforces, including security staff who were "among the highest trained and highest paid in Papua New Guinea".

Paladin also said it supported the stated position of PNG's parliament speaker, and Manus MP, Job Pomat, that he is not a party to any business by Paladin or its subcontractors.

This comes after media revelations that Paladin's local subcontractor Peren Investments Limited, a company controlled by Mr Pomat's brothers.

In relation to AFR reports on allegations made against it, Paladin said the news outlet failed to identify any evidence, adding that it was seeking legal advice.

Paladin recently purchased the leading PNG private security company Black Swan.

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