12 May 2016

Prasad says Fiji committee toothless

2:24 pm on 12 May 2016

Fiji's deputy opposition leader Biman Prasad says a key parliamentary body is now toothless after he was effectively removed as its chair.

The leader of the Fiji National Federation Party, Biman Prasad.

The leader of the Fiji National Federation Party, Biman Prasad. Photo: RNZ / Sally Round

The government whip Ashneel Sudhakar replaced the economist and leader of the National Federation Party as chair of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee this morning after a vote brought about by new parliamentary rules.

February's change to the Standing Orders removed the requirement for the chair to be held by an opposition member.

Professor Prasad said the new rule is a departure from tradition in two thirds of Commonwealth countries.

"Obviously government was very very unhappy with the way in which the Public Accounts Committee was doing its job so effectively and efficiently that they had to remove me as chairman. " he said.

The PAC has been scrutinising a backlog of accounts from Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama's pre-election regime.

Prof. Prasad says without an opposition member in the chair there will not be thorough accountability.

"All the committee will have to do is go through the motion of looking at the Audito-General's report as per law without actually providing a thorough and detailed scrutiny of how the taxpayer's funds have been used."

"That is a big worry, and a backward step for a government which wants to call the democracy they have a genuine democracy. In fact this whole thing has now become a facade."

Fiji's new PAC chair defends independence

The new chair of the PAC and government whip, Ashneel Sudhakar, says there will be no less scrutiny of the government accounts.

"The committees of Parliament don't run at the whims and fancies of the chairs. There's rules governing it. The chair doesn't decide and there's two Opposition members there to be present at all meetings and take part in the scrutiny."

Prof Prasad says the remaining opposition member on the PAC Aseri Radrodro will be consulting with the Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa in light of the changes.

Prof Prasad said he will still be able to hold the government to account as the shadow Minister of Finance.

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