PORT MORESBY - The Papua New Guinea manufacturing sector has lashed out at the Australian government for allegedly overlooking local companies in the construction phase of the Manus Island asylum seeker centre.
Chey Schovell, the Manufacturers Council of PNG CEO, said he was baffled by the silence from the PNG and Australian governments on the involvement of the PNG private sector in the construction and supply of general goods and services for the asylum seeker centre.
“It is as confusing as it is disappointing that despite offering a quality product at competitive prices, local businesses are not even being offered the opportunity to quote on all or part of the supply for goods and services for the processing centre in Manus,” he added.
However, Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) in response to queries from the Post-Courier said all contractors and service providers on Manus Island were advised to use local providers and labour where possible.
“It is the department’s intention to undertake approaches to the market for any further significant permanent accommodation requirements for the site, wherever schedules permit,” the department said and added that the tight timeframes and the logistics to provide more accommodation compelled it to engage the services of Toll Remote Logistics.
Toll Remote Logistics is a subsidiary of the Toll Group, Australia’s largest transport company based in Melbourne, Australia and currently operating in over 55 countries worldwide.
The Australian government department has also engaged Red Sea Housing, another global company specialising in the manufacture of buildings with a huge presence in the Middle East. Defending the company’s engagement, DIAC said Red Sea Housing had experience in fast delivery and working in PNG.
Accommodation modules will also be sourced from PNG and the department has consulted local businesses and plans to conduct business briefings in Port Moresby, Lae and Manus before the end of the month.
But Scovell, in reference to last month’s SME summit in Madang, said the engagement of PNG-made housing and building materials in the construction phase was an opportunity for the PNG government to show its commitment to supporting local industries.
“Despite various obligations under numerous treaties and regulations, it seems that the Australian government is sole sourcing or selectively tendering the opportunities and giving no consideration to PNG businesses,” he added. [PostCourier]