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$100m Not Missing, Stresses A-G

$100m Not  Missing, Stresses A-G
Explained....The summary of the National Budget from 2000-2014
September 23
10:30 2015

Attorney-General and Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday clarified that $100 million from miscellaneous funds – Head 50 – is not missing.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the controversy over this whole affair was a matter that had been drummed up by the Fiji Times and because of lack of clarification and guidance from the chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

After seeking approval of the Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum held a press conference yesterday to set the record straight.

He sought the approval because the issue of how money from the Head 50 fund had been used was still before PAC.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum clarified that the Finance staff who appeared before PAC was not in the position to answer questions relating to the Head 50 fund. She told PAC she could not account for it. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said she should have told the committee that the Head of Budget Division was the  right person to answer.

Her response was then quickly grabbed by the Fiji Times, put out of context and given prominence.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum explained that he had earlier held off answering publicly because he needed to get clarification from the Speaker. He also stated that the matter was further compounded by an absence of quasi-judicious behavior expected of the Chair and members of  PAC, in particular by giving running commentaries.

Journalists covering the press conference were provided a comprehensive breakdown of the Head 50 budget for the past 15 years – from 2000 to 2014 which detailed the use of $100million.

“The $100 million that was very loosely referred to is the average amount allocated to Head 50 over a period of 15 years from 2000 to 2014.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum urged PAC chair and journalists to contextualize issue when talking about or reporting on Finance matters before the committee.

 

Misinterpretation:

“There was absolutely no attempt whatsoever by Fiji Times or any other media that might have published it to exactly try and find out what the Fund is or they could have very simply gone onto the budget documentation that was presented in Parliament last year in November and found out exactly what it was and what the money was used for,” he said.

“This in many societies would be held to be malpractice and would be condemned by everybody for a particular media organisation to sensationalize matters  about Government finances. It is sensationalism that is to the detriment of confidence in the economy, trying to create an air to say that there is lack of transparency.”

The so-called ‘missing’ $100million was extensively reported on by Fiji Times with a running commentary from PAC chair Biman Prasad.

He said Government refrained from commenting on the matter since it was before a committee and was yet to be tabled in Parliament, a fact that Mr Prasad ignored when commenting on the issue.

Fiji Times Editor-in-Chief Fred Wesley last night said: “That is unfortunate. I believe we have been responsible enough to ask the Ministry of Finance for comments throughout. It is unfortunate that there was no response.”

 

Running commentaries by Mr Prasad:

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum urged PAC chair to contextualize issues when talking about finance matters before the committee.

Giving an analogy of how during a court trial the Judge does not come to a conclusion after one witness gives his or her account of an event, the committee and media too should not jump to conclusions.

“We have three articles, we have on the Fiji Times on the 6th of August ‘No Answer for $100m question, ‘Responses Overdue’ dated 8th of Sept 2015 and then the ‘$100m Question’ which is dated 17th of September, it contains a number of misquotations and mix of the actual context as to which the answers were given

“So I urge the media that when you are reporting on Committee findings, contexualise the matter just because one person has given an answer to the committee, it does not mean that that is the outcome of the investigation or those hearings.”

“It would be prudent if a Committee in particular, the PAC to understand that the integrity of their findings is based on an unbiased and independent approach and which must be contained only in their report which is tabled in Parliament. Not on sideshows that they may hold through the media. Such an approach completely undermines the credibility and integrity of the Committee and its findings.”

“Indeed, it is the responsibility of the Committee and the Chair to ensure its integrity and credibility that it stops the media from speculating, sensationalizing and prejudging the findings of the Committee.”

Mr Prasad said last night: “We have been continuously asking a report regarding the use of Head 50 and today we have received.

“We have the analysis of it from year 2000 to 2014.

“We will be discussing it before making a report a report to Parliament.”

 

Anomalies in Auditor-General’s reports and Commercial realities:

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum highlighted that they had also noted a number of anomalies in the manner in which the Auditor General had conducted the audits.

He said that it would appear that the Auditor-General’s Office was unaware of or lacked comprehension to understand the realities of many commercial transactions which were now part of day to day Government business.

He also pointed out that in some instances the Auditor-General’s Office needed legal clarification but failed to get it from the Solicitor-General’s Office and this was demonstrated through some of their conclusions.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also pointed out that in one of the findings in the Auditor-General’s report, they had referred to an absence of proper contracts/ documentations when those documents actually did exist.

Feedback: litia.cava@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

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