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The bombshell Auditor General Reports for 2007 to 2013

November 10, 2014

The evidence of the Auditor General Reports indicates that Bainimarama and Khaiyum obtained significant personal financial advantage by paying themselves large increases in salary, decided by themselves.

By Professor Wadan Narsey
Fiji tax-payers have received an absolute bombshell regarding the use of their money by the Bainimarama Regime, with the simultaneous release of the Auditor General Reports for the years 2007 to 2013, all 28 volumes of them. (very much in keeping with the Diwali fireworks and in anticipation of the now forgotten Guy Fawkes night).
These reports are detailed audits of government incomes, expenditures and borrowings, usually tabled annually in Parliament by the Minister of Finance, as a “report on the performance of the government” for the previous year.
All taxpayers must understand what is in these reports, given that annually at least 25% (or more than a billion dollars) of their total incomes is forcibly taken from them by the government as taxes, hundreds of millions further are borrowed by the same government to be paid by the current and future tax payers, and the entire revenue is then spent allegedly on tax-payers’ behalf.

The Auditor General Reports try to verify whether the taxes are being collected according to the law, whether loans are being borrowed responsibly and as planned, and whether the revenues are being spent the way that parliament approved or as stated in the Annual Budget documents, or whether there are deficiencies in the above.

Upon tabling in parliament and with the elected parliamentarians, the Auditor General Reports are usually released to the media, and hence to the public to monitor and act if they see fit.
That is what used to happen annually for forty six years after independence in 1970.
Then the cycle was broken by Commodore Bainimarama who seized power through a coup in December 2006.

Principles of a sound audit
It is useful to first outline the basic principles which the owners of all organizations, private or public, expect from a good audit whether in accounting, economics or management:
The Auditor General must be totally independent of the Fiji Government (reasonably so) and must be adequately resourced (not so, according to his reports);
The government ministries must give the Auditor General every information that they ask for (they refused in a number of cases);
The audit must clearly point out the major faults (done pretty well), as well as the remedies to the owners, the people of Fiji (not so good);
The owners must be able to make the organizational changes that are necessary to eliminate the faults pointed out (little chance of that);
The next audit must check to see if the faults pointed out the previous year have been rectified (often not rectified) and the public notified of these failures (not done).
Despite the Auditor General’s best efforts, some of these principles have been significantly compromised by the Bainimarama Government (as given in the brackets above), the most obvious being the complete failure to report annually.

No AG Reports from 2007 to 2013
For seven years, the Auditor General Reports have been prepared and submitted to the Bainimarama Cabinet by a very brave group of civil servants in the Auditor General’s Office (read here my appreciation of them).
But the Bainimarama Government and Minister of Finance refused to release any of the AG Reports, despite the many requests from the public and international condemnation. Read here one of my last critical articles to appear in The Fiji Times, 28 October 2008:

The flimsy excuse was that the law required Bainimarama to table the reports in Parliament and because there was no parliament (which he himself had removed), he did not have to table the reports, totally ignoring that the fundamental objective was for the Bainimarama Government to report to the people, not some empty hall in the Parliamentary complex at Veiuto or Government buildings.

For eight years, the unelected illegal Bainimarama Government completely controlled the raising of taxes and loans, and the spending of all revenues, without any accountability whatsoever to the people.

Then, after becoming an elected Prime Minister in September 2014 (promising “equality for all” and “if you don’t want another coup, vote for me”), he released all seven sets of Auditor General Reports, totaling 28 reports altogether.

They are now being read by the curious media and the public, many understandably searching for evidence of abuse and misuse of tax-payers’ funds.
The revelations in the reports
Professor Biman Prasad, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee which is charged with examining the AG Reports, has already stated that “it has become abundantly clear there has been widespread abuse of public funds and blatant disregard of fundamental financial procedures (as well as) … pilferage, wastage and abuse of public funds”.

Professor Prasad noted that there had been “continuous disregard of recommendations by the Auditor-General” indicating that the Bainimarama Government carried on “business as usual” year after year for eight years, making no attempt at correcting the mistakes being pointed out by the Auditor General.

These conclusions are quite damming of Bainimarama’s performance as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, and also of the two most important Permanent Secretaries – of Finance and Public Service.

They also explain why Bainimarama and Khaiyum were adamant in not releasing the reports before the September 2014 elections, given that they would have inevitably influenced the outcome and certainly Bainimarama’s support.

With Bainimarama’s Fiji First Party campaign claiming great honesty, transparency, accountability and opposition to corruption, the Opposition parliamentarians can now legitimately state that the evidence in the Auditor General’s Reports suggest that the 2014 elections were won by Bainimarama and Khaiyum using lies and deceit.

Of relevance to this claim is the personal integrity of Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bainimarama and Attorney General Khaiyum, with respect to the salaries that they paid themselves during 2010 and 2013, and the blatant abuse of process of payment.
Ministers’ salaries
While the Public Accounts Committee will no doubt investigate the many revelations of costly abuse of public funds and lack of transparency and accountability, the public will be especially interested in the revelations about ministerial salaries between 2010 and 2013, and what is still not being revealed.
The public already know that in November 2011, Regime supporters John Samy and the late Archbishop Mataca (Co-Chairman of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji) wrote a letter to Bainimarama, complaining about the increasing lack of transparency and accountability of his Government.

source – wn blog; posted by rusi varani for swm.
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