NEWS

Surprise Visits Not Official

Surprise visits by political leaders to engage civil servants in serious discussions about national development cannot be part of an official tour. Any tour of this nature must be planned
28 Oct 2015 15:16
Surprise Visits Not Official
SODELPA MP Ro Teimumu Kepa.

Surprise visits by political leaders to engage civil servants in serious discussions about national development cannot be part of an official tour.

Any tour of this nature must be planned weeks in advance so that Government officials can prepare themselves to receive leaders and answer questions.

This was not done in the recent controversial tour of the North by Ro Teimumu Kepa, the Opposition Leader.

A random survey of senior Government officials yesterday revealed that civil servants were usually informed in advance of an impending tour or visit so that they could prepare themselves.

That was why they could not meet Ro Teimumu.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has said that civil servants were not obliged to meet her because her trip was unofficial and not sanctioned by Parliament.

Law expert Bill Hodge from the University of Auckland in an interview with Radio New Zealand said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had a right to be concerned about the independence of the civil service.

He agreed with Mr Sayed-Khaiyum that any information sought that is not already public should usually be asked of the relevant minister in Parliament.

He said while Ro Teimumu didn’t need permission to tour, she could have compromised the civil servants.

He said: “Because all civil servants, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji have an obligation to keep government materials confidential, and not tell anybody those things that may relate to private persons or monies and so on, so it would imperil the independence or even the position of the civil servants concerned.”

Spokesperson for Ro Teimumu Kepa, Mick Beddoes, told RNZ she toured Vanua Levu and Taveuni in her role as the Leader of the Opposition, but civil servants in the North were instructed not to speak to her.

Mr Beddoes said she was obliged to keep the Government in check and it was ‘utter rubbish’ that MPs need to seek permission from the Parliament before seeking to meet officials anywhere.

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry said her position was a constitutional one and she has as much freedom as the prime minister.

Secretary-General to Parliament Viniana Namosimalua said she approved funding for the trip because she assumed it was an official trip.

The tour has upset her own SODELPA party officials in Vanua Levu who were taken by surprise by the tour. They said the tour would have achieved more if it was planned properly.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

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