The National Government is and has been addressing the PNG Defence Force personnel pay issues and anticipate that the next pay period, Pay 10, will be normal for most members.

The Office of the Chief Secretary to Government has been working with the Department of Finance, Personnel Management, and Defence to correct the ongoing pay issue for Defence Force.

The issues began to unfold when the PNGDF attempted to implement a 3% salary increment commencing in Pay 5 of 2024.

Chief Secretary to Government, Ivan Pomaleu said he had convened a meeting of the secretaries of Personnel Management, Finance and Defence and the Acting Commander of the Defence Force on 02 May 2024 to deal with this issue.

Mr Pomaleu said Concept Payroll and the vendors of the Alesco Payroll were also asked to come in and help manage and supervise the combined efforts of the Department of Personnel Management, Defence and Finance officers to address these issues.

The Chief Secretary said the implementation of the new Salary Scale had three problems.

“Firstly, the salary levels that were initially used were lower than those that the members were presently on. Secondly, the Service Allowances were higher than what they should have been. Finally, the new Salary Scale changed the PNGDF Award from a 5-step scale to a 7-step scale, and the translation from the 5-step scale to the 7-step scale was conducted later in the process than it should have been. It should have been done first.

“A combination of technical flaws in the implementation of the 3% increment that caused this ongoing issue. In pays 6 and 7, many changes were made to the Steps, and sometimes Grades, to try and pay the members approximately and closest to what they were getting in Pay 4. This was a mistake, and it caused under and over payments to many members. It was a problem caused by a genuine attempt to correct flaws in pay 5.

“In Pay 8, the correct Salary Scale was approved. The changes that were made to the steps that were below where they should have been were addressed in Pay 8 in a Special Pay. This special pay was run after the Pay 8 pay period was closed and was paid out during Pay 9.

“The consequence was that some members received less or more money than they expected in the normal pay, and the special pay was an attempt to remedy that issue. It was also a genuine effort to address the problem, but it actually caused confusion because of the two bank deposits for the one pay. Some of these members who received ex-gratia payments will receive a normal pay in Pay 10,” said Chief Secretary Pomaleu.

He said that it was necessary to clean up records up to Pay 10. In this pay, there were 280 members who were moved up to their correct step. As a result of this, there are now 2,425 members who were moved up to their correct grade and step. There are 1,363 employees sitting on higher grade/step. In Pay 10, 37 retirees have also received their final entitlements. So, in total, there are now 3,788 members who are either on their correct step or higher.

“This is the result of the work, which was done in the last 10 days involving officers from the PNGDF, Finance and DPM, and with close oversight from Concept Payroll. We will know soon enough when the pay hits the personal accounts and whether the actions are sufficient to secure the payroll in the manner we envisaged.

“There are obviously incorrect payments to reconcile and to address in the coming pays. Any back pay of the underpayments will be addressed in Pay 11. For those members that have received more than what they were entitled to, it will be documented, communicated with them and actions will be taken in accordance with normal procedures to recover those over payments, based on an agreed payment plan.

“It was important to methodically clear up all confusing issues between Pay 5 to Pay 9 before we can correct any under or over payments.

“There has been a fair bit of work done to address the issues of the PNGDF payroll. While the approach taken means that there will be some pending back pays and deductions, I have been assured that Pay 10 will carry minimum normal pay for all members.

“The team will be encouraging all members to raise individual concerns if there are any, following the dispatch of the Pay 10 to individual accounts,” he added.

Chief Secretary Pomaleu said the members of the Defence Force and relevant agencies and members of the public having interest in this matter have been notified of these efforts to address the ongoing PNGDF pay issue.