James Marape, who became prime minister after the resignation of Peter O’Neill last month, told PNG’s parliament on Tuesday he would summon Australia’s diplomatic head of mission “to provide an explanation”.
“We don’t intend to have foreign security companies engage in businesses like security which we can do. I will also request to have this contract terminated forthwith.”
The $423m Paladin contract is the subject of several reviews in Australia, including one by the auditor general examining all of the government’s contracts for the offshore processing systems on Manus Island and Nauru. That audit is forecast to deliver its report in January 2020.
Paladin’s contract – which currently works out at a cost of at least $1,600 per day for each refugee and asylum seeker, not including food or medical care – is due to expire next week, and the Department of Home Affairs has refused to clarify whether it would be renewed.
Two weeks ago the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, said that “the likelihood is there’s a continuation”.
Labor has called for the government to release a commissioned Ernst & Young review into the contract – ordered in March but not yet released – before it makes any decision.
Last week PNG’s immigration minister, Petrus Thomas, said PNG wanted to take over the contracts and he had written to the home affairs department telling them he expected Paladin’s contract to be cancelled.
“Papua New Guinean companies now have the capacity and expertise to do the job and should be given the opportunity to participate,” he said.
Paladin’s subcontracts with other companies – most of which have also been controversial – also expire on 30 June.
It was originally planned for the PNG government to take over the running of services and facilities when the Manus Island detention centre was closed in November 2017, however just before before the anticipated date the PNG government said it couldn’t take over because it was entering a caretaker period ahead of a national election.
The Australian government engaged Paladin through a limited tender process, which it said was needed because of the rush, however the contract has been renewed several times since.
Guardian Australia has also revealed similar contract processes were used to procure the services of Pacific International hospital for healthcare services on Manus Island.