Fiji govt challenged over private payment of salaries
The Fiji Opposition says it is proven right by details in the Auditor General's reports.
The Fiji opposition says its claims ministers in the previous military-led regime were paid privately through an accounting firm owned by the Attorney General's aunt have been proven correct.
The recently released Auditor General's reports are filled with criticism of the lax practices of the regime, which was led by Frank Bainimarama, who was also the Finance Minister.
The opposition leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa, told Don Wiseman there were always suspicions about how the ministers were being paid.
RO TEIMUMU KEPA: No records or any papers were made available to us, so we just heard what the rumours were and were saying. And now those rumours have been substantiated by the Auditor General's reports.
DON WISEMAN: Do we know why they used this outside firm?
RTK: They used to be paid from the Ministry of Finance and then when it was directed to an accountancy firm you know, red flags started waving, because you know, why would you do that? And now we have it here from the Auditor General's report that the payments were made by this accountancy firm and there was no proper paperwork done which should have been done in terms of these payments.
DW: Now the accounting firm involved, Aliz Pacific, is that a major firm?
RTK: It is a major firm and it is operated in partnership with the other firm, it's a husband and wife partner. And the woman is the maternal aunt of the Attorney General.
DW: Is that relevant or not?
RTK: Well I'm wondering. Because this is common knowledge. I'm not saying anything that is not public knowledge. But why would you chose an accountancy firm and that one in particular?
DW: There's been this deluge of reports from the Auditor General, I guess there are going to be lots of these sorts of questions, and there's going to be this requirement on the government to explain what happened through that period of the regime. But is the opposition going to have enough clout within the Public Accounts Committee to extract the necessary information from the government here?
RTK: Well we hope that they will be able to have as much influence and power as they have had in the past. And according to the standing orders of parliament they would have the same powers and privileges and we hope that will be accorded to them also, in which they will be able to subpoena information that is not readily available to other committees who have tried in the past to be able to get this same information. We hope that they will be able to also. Because in terms of transparency, you know, they have been talking about transparency, accountability, good governance, they have to now prove that they are able to stand up to the scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee and deliver to the public from which - you know, they are paying taxes, you know from all the various taxes, the licences, and fees that the people of Fiji are required to pay, and that their money is being well used. And if it's not well used, why was it not best utilised in the best interests of the country? And it's the Public Accounts Committee which has to come up with their report and let the public know whether these monies were well utilised.
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