NEWS

Karavaki Questions Powers Of Electoral Commission

The Electoral Commission seemed to have gone above and beyond their prescribed powers during the 2014 general elections, says former Supervisor of Elections Semesa Karavaki. The Public Accounts Committee member
16 Jul 2016 11:07
Karavaki Questions Powers  Of Electoral Commission
Chair Of The Commission Chen Bunn Young

The Electoral Commission seemed to have gone above and beyond their prescribed powers during the 2014 general elections, says former Supervisor of Elections Semesa Karavaki.

The Public Accounts Committee member had questioned why the Commission seemed to have been at odds with the Fijian Elections Office.

He also queried why they needed a separate budget when their expenses could easily be accommodated out of the Fijian Elections Office’s allocation.

He raised these questions when the Standing Committee on Law, Human Rights and Justice sat on Thursday. Mr Karavaki posed the questions after Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum made a presentation before the Commission on the Multinational Observer Group’s report on the 2014 General Elections.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum told the Committee that the Commission was run independently. But Mr Karavaki raised the point that if the Commission had any issues, they should have raised it with Mr Sayed-Khaiyum as the Minister Responsible for Elections.

While agreeing with this, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also informed the Committee that for each sitting, each Commissioner receives $500 as sitting allowance.

In 2014, the Commission had spent $248,875 as sitting allowance. Travel and meal money was separate.

The other issue Mr Karavaki raised was the need for the Commission to seek legal advice from a paid lawyer when the Solicitor-General was the legal authority to give a legal opinion.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum to this also highlighted that for the first time, a Commissioner – in this case chair of the Commission Chen Bunn Young – had appeared at bar in a matter against the Supervisor of Elections.

Mr Young is out of the country and did not respond to questions emailed to him when this edition went to press.

Mr Karavaki said as a former Supervisor of Elections, he was surprised that the Commission did not raise any concerns with the Minister Responsible for Elections.

He pointed out that the role of the Commission was to ensure that laws pertaining to the general elections are followed by all parties involved.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum stressed that he had left the Commission to be run independently, but he had raised concerns with Mr Young on the perception that the chair had sought legal advice from an outside source at a fee of $25,000.

He informed the Committee that when Mr Young had once met him for other issues, he had informed him that the firm he had hired had a close working relationship with Mr Young’s law firm and there was a perception that the firm had been hired because of this commercial relationship.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also informed the Committee that the Ministry of Economy was also checking to see if proper processes had been followed when the Commission had used taxpayers money to hire an outside legal counsel.

 

Electoral Commission members

Mr Young is the chairman of the Commission.

Other Commissioners are tourism industry leader and marketing expert, James Sowane, accountant and financial advisor Jenny Seeto, filmmaker and media specialist, Larry Thomas, electoral expert and priest, Father David Arms, and educationalist and civil society leader, Alisi Daurewa.

 

Edited by Rosi Doviverata

Feedback:  arieta.vakasukawaqa@fijisun.com.fj

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