Papua New Guinea’s national airline company Air Niugini Limited’s chief executive officer Bruce Alabaster has stepped down from his position.
Air Niugini chairman Sir Kostas Contantinou announced that Alabaster has departed from his position as chief executive officer and Gary Seddon has been appointed as the acting CEO.
Sir Kostas said Alabaster was instrumental in guiding the airline through the challenges associated with the COVID-19 global pandemic which required difficult decision making affecting the company’s workforce among other core business elements.
“The board has confirmed the appointment of Gary Seddon as acting chief executive of Air Niugini while a more formal engagement is finalised.
“Seddon has served on the Air Niugini board and has held substantial executive positions during his career,” Sir Kostas said.
“More recently, he provides strategic guidance to State-owned enterprises through the shareholder Kumul Consolidated Holdings.
“I have every faith in Seddon’s ability to provide much needed stability during this transition period.”
He said a comprehensive national and international selection process for a new CEO will be undertaken using an independent recruitment specialist as determined and governed by the enabling leg.
“The board and management will continue to focus on Air Niugini’s medium to longer-term sustainability through the purchase of a new, next generation aircraft,” he said.
Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea State Enterprises Minister, William Duma says Alabaster was “sacked” by the National Executive Council (NEC) over “performance” issues.
“The decision was the result of serious issues raised at the NEC about the performance of both Alabaster and the board of directors of Air Niugini, (plus) the management, some of which undermine national interests,” Duma said.
It is understood that the Government is also seriously looking into the performance of the heads of other State-owned entities, including PNG Power Limited and Water PNG Limited.
Duma clarified Alabaster was sacked by the NEC on 23 February, following “due process”.
The NEC was concerned about the performance of the airline’s management and board “at a time when a major strategic reform is occurring in the state-owned enterprise system including Air Niugini”.
“This includes the recent proposed financing arrangement for re-fleeting Air Niugini between PNG and Australia. Re-fleeting is a major commercial and structural exercise which will ensure the future of the national airline,” Duma said.
“The Marape-led Government will not tolerate any risks to the safety and lives of the travelling public.”
Duma also pointed out the failure to declare profits “through management incompetence or otherwise, thereby affecting the future” of Air Niugini.
“Alabaster was terminated by the NEC, the appointing authority, following due process,” Duma said.
“And the board of Air Niugini can only comply with NEC decisions without seeking to downplay or undermine (them).”
Duma said the performance of the Air Niugini management and board in the coming months would be closely observed as the re-fleeting exercise proceeded, and other strategic reforms implemented.