27 Sep 2005

Fiji military defends financial planning amid planned cuts

1:15 pm on 27 September 2005

Fiji's military leaders are defending their financial planning in the face of an order to save millions of dollars by scaling back services.

Lieutenant Colonel Orisi Rabukawaqa says there's no way the military could have foreseen the Government's directive to reduce its operations for the rest of the financial year.

He says the military was on track financially until it was unexpectedly told to absorb 19 million dollars of extra payments, almost a third of its total budget.

The extra expense includes payments for a massive job evaluation exercise, salary adjustments and the rising costs of providing goods and services

"The bulk of the money that were directed for us to pay out, we had not budgeted for, and the understanding was that we would pay from our current budget and that this would be reimbursed."

Search and rescue operations and maritime patrols of Fiji's exclusive economic zone are among operations to be cut back but Lieutenant Colonel Rabukawaqa says the military has assured the Government the belt-tightening exercise will not compromise national security.

Fiji will continue to meet its commitments to high priority areas such as deployments in Sinai and Iraq, officer cadet training with the New Zealand defence forces, and the retrial of soldiers charged with mutiny.