Paladin

This picture, above, may not look much to you, indeed it may look like a beach shack on Kangaroo Island (which it is), but it’s the headquarters of a multi-million dollar business. It’s called Paladin (http://paladingroup.net) and its story came about from some fine work by the AFR and my thanks to Kristina Keneally for sharing this story with a wider audience on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KKeneally/status/1283362948384043009).

Paladin has the contact to secure refugees on Manus Island. They make about $20m a month from the Australian taxpayer and no one (outside of the Federal government) is really sure why they got the contract. Indeed, the ABC has a podcast that asks that very question – https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/the-signal/the-company-in-the-beach-shack/10823296

Paladin received, through a closed-tender process, a range of contracts worth $A423 million for 22 months of work. It had only registered in Australia a month before winning a $A89 million contract to provide security services.

Paladin is used to controversary. An investigation by The Australian Financial Review has found the Department of Home Affairs overlooked allegations of deception, lying during the tender process and questionable payments when it extended Paladin’s contract on January 3 2019. These allegations emerged during a bitter legal dispute between Paladin and its former chief executive for PNG, Craig Coleman, who is suing the company for breach of contract.

In addition, Paladin’s founder and key executive, Craig Thrupp, is no longer able to enter PNG, while another local director, Kisokau Powaseu, was detained in Port Moresby in Jan 2019 and charged with misappropriating funds and money laundering.  They also recently purchased the contentious PNG security outfit Black Swan, a company repeatedly forced to deny rumours it has links to the family of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Calculations by the Financial Review indicate Paladin is being paid on average $20.8 million a month by the government to provide security at all three sites and manage the East Lorengau Transit Centre. That amount has risen 48 per cent from an average of $14 million a month last year.  That means on a daily basis it now costs the Australian government over $1600 to house each refugee on Manus, not including food and welfare services, more than double the price of a suite at the Shangri-La hotel in Sydney.

It’s also reported that Senior officials with the Papua New Guinea government have made frequent approaches to security company Paladin for a cut of the cash it receives from Canberra for running the Manus Island detention centre. Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo told a Senate committee that his department was unaware of bribery concerns linked to Australia’s offshore detention regime.

There was an Auditor-General investigation into what was going on and the report found “the department did not demonstrate the achievement of value for money for the PNG procurements” and was “not appropriate”. (https://www.afr.com/policy/foreign-affairs/home-affairs-rebuked-over-paladin-s-532m-contract-20200528-p54xds)

So, nothing to see here folks, move on.

Further Reading:

Small security firm given less than a week to bid for huge Manus Island contracthttps://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/small-security-firm-given-less-than-a-week-to-bid-for-huge-manus-island-contract-20190217-p50ydh.html

The Paladin Group Contract: https://theaimn.com/refugees-as-business-the-paladin-group-contract/

Closed tenders and shady dealingshttps://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/paladin-closed-tenders-and-shady-dealings,12387

Cashing in on refugeeshttps://www.afr.com/policy/foreign-affairs/cashing-in-on-refugees-duo-make-20-million-a-month-at-manus-island-20190210-h1b2e5

Paladin fined more than 3700 times https://www.afr.com/policy/foreign-affairs/paladin-fined-more-than-3700-times-in-a-year-20190917-p52s4q

PNG officials making brazen demands for kickbacks  – https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/png-officials-making-brazen-demands-for-kickbacks-from-manus-operator-20191021-p532m0.html

Home Affairs chief denies knowing of bribe requestshttps://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/nothing-to-see-here-home-affairs-chief-denies-knowing-of-bribe-requests-20200305-p54742.html

Government probed over awarding of Manus Island security contractshttps://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-18/government-to-be-grilled-over-manus-island-security-contracts/10820268

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