A second security firm operating in Papua New Guinea said it was open to taking the $423m Manus Island contract handed to Paladin but was never approached by the Australian government.
Loda Security has previously worked on Manus Island as a subcontractor at the regional processing centre on behalf of the Australian government, and said it would have been interested in the contract ultimately handed to Paladin in an effectively closed tender process.
The Department of Home Affairs has previously said it approached Paladin directly because the firm was operating in the environment, had previously worked for the Australian government as a subcontractor, and because larger firms weren’t interested due to the “noise” around Australia’s offshore processing.
But Thomas Barara, a director with Loda Security, which has since merged with PASS Security, said his company was not approached for the work. Loda had worked on Manus Island as a subcontractor under Wilson and Broadspectrum until last year, Barara said.
“Loda Security was not approached,” Barara told Guardian Australia. ‘“However, we respect the decision of both Australian Border Protection [sic] and PNG Immigration and Citizenship Authority (PNGICA) due to our long-standing relationship while we were engaged at the regional processing centre in Lombrum navy base.
“We understand that ABF and PNGICA seriously considered national content and landowners issues before awarding of the contract to Paladin due to past experiences at Lombrum navy base.
“If we were approached by ABF, we most certainly would have engaged with our business partners and follow the similar business arrangements Paladin Solutions took to ensure local business and landowner participation was recognised.”
Loda Security stressed that it understood and respected the department’s decision and wished to maintain its relationship with the Australian and PNG authorities “while looking forward to participate in future contracts in Manus should opportunities become available again”.
Loda Security was not a large company, and Guardian Australia is not suggesting it was more or less suitable than Paladin for the work. But the comments again raise questions about the way the department ran the procurement process in an effectively closed manner.
The Department of Home Affairs said it faced urgent circumstances in awarding the contract to Paladin. Officials told Senate estimates that the government of Papua New Guinea had signalled it would take over the work, before changing its position months later.
It said Paladin was approached directly for a quote because major companies were not interested in tendering.
“They [Paladin] have worked on Manus Island as a contractor to Wilson and also to [construction and engineering firm] Decmil since 2013,” Cheryl-anne Moy, a departmental deputy secretary, said.
“Paladin Group and Paladin Solutions have had quite a bit of contact in regard to Manus Island work and working in that particular environment. As for the actual work that we undertake with Paladin, as I said, they were working with Decmil, Wilson Security and Broadspectrum.”
The department was approached for comment.
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