Sunday, January 14, 2007

Fiji Auditor General Accused of Stonewalling Findings.

Discrepancies into the affairs of the office of Fiji Auditor General is paramount among the priorities of new interim Minister of Finance, Mahendra Chaudary. The new incumbent has raised interesting questions regarding certain select 2005 findings that, were withheld from being tabled in Fiji Parliament.

"There is enough evidence in those reports. I have reason to believe the reports were shelved because the contents compromised the ousted Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Government.

"You will remember that the Auditor-General was summoned by Laisenia Qarase when he was Prime Minister, where he was talked to. Thereafter, a general slacking from the Auditor- General was evident," Mr Chaudhry said, accusing Mr Vatuloka of being selective in his reports.

Select findings reported by the Fij Times, is as follows:

Two reports obtained by The Fiji Times show there were no travel guidelines for State CEOs overseas travel, enabling them to capitalise on loopholes without telling the Public Service Commission in time.

One report said the Minor Tenders Board in a Flying Minute in September 2002 approved the purchase of three return tickets from Nadi to Geneva for an Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting.

The trip for then Speaker of the House Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, backbencher Filimoni Banuve and former FLP backbencher Vijay Singh cost taxpayers $26,187. Former Secretary-General Mary Chapman joined the contingent at an additional $8729 without the approval of the Minor Tenders Board or an explanation for the last minute inclusion.

The report highlights the need for State ministries and departments to file supporting documents for official trips overseas, after it was discovered organisations funded air fares and per diem allowances for MPs.

Former MPs cited in such instances include ex-SDL Cabinet member Mataiasi Ragigia, ousted Commerce Minister Tomasi Vuetilovoni, Isireli Leweniqila who at the time of the report was Sports Minister, Simione Kaitani, who was then Information Minister, Solomone Naivalu as Health Minister and then Public Enterprise Minister Irami Matairavula. The report cited breach of an agreement the Government had with Air Pacific Fiji Limited on all overseas travel services for civil servants.

Included in this were former Home Affairs Minister Joketani Cokanasiga, Mr Naivalu and Agriculture CEO Luke Ratuvuki, who travelled Qantas Airways for business purposes.

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