NEWS

A-G Backs FRA As MWH Ends Deal

The row between MWH Global and Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) escalated yesterday when the international infrastructure consultancy firm  prematurely terminated its contract with FRA. Government has commended FRA for standing
24 Sep 2016 10:08
A-G Backs FRA As MWH Ends Deal
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

The row between MWH Global and Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) escalated yesterday when the international infrastructure consultancy firm  prematurely terminated its contract with FRA.

Government has commended FRA for standing its grounds by demanding that MWH provide required documentation before they are paid for their services.

Government has backed FRA’s stand as the authority’s Sydney-based lawyers look at avenues to take legal action against MWH.

The latest development comes in the wake of the deportation of two MWH employees to New Zealand.

Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, in a press conference yesterday, praised FRA for not squandering away Fijian taxpayers’ funds.

MWH Global managing director Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, Mark Bruzzone, said MWH Global had terminated its contract with the FRA because of non-payment of invoices dating back to work completed in March of this year.

 

FRA board chairman Dinesh Patel said: “This action has been undertaken unilaterally by MWH. FRA considers MWH’s action to be unlawful and will be addressing this conduct as part of the broader on-going commercial dispute between MWH and FRA.”

 

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the FRA board had briefed Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama of the commercial issues it was facing with MWH, before he had left for New York.

He said that the FRA had an obligation to taxpayers of Fiji and had requested various details on particular invoices issued through MWH, adding that after those details were not provided, lawyers were involved.

“FRA stood its grounds because it believes that it needs to be given full details of all invoices and the work done under these invoices before it can make payments. Those negotiations were going on foot and subsequently, MWH has decided to, in our opinion, unlawfully terminate its contract prior to the term of the contract expiring which is the end of this year.”

FRA has given Government assurance of its ability to deliver and to meet the service charter.

“Whilst this matter was going on with MWH, FRA had a back-up plan. There is a plan that is there to put in place in situation if MWH withdraws and it has withdrawn and the FRA is now attending to that.”

 

Deportation of MWH staff:

Fiji, like all sovereign countries has rights to expel people on work permits, if they break the law.

“In respect to the deportation of the two MWH staff members – they were not construction workers as reported by some media outlets in overseas,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“They were consultants. The deportation is obviously outside the scope of FRA- the deportation and granting of work visas is the purview and indeed the privy of the Government .

“When any individual like in any other country is given an entry permit, there are certain conditions that one has to meet. We have had people for example, Fijians who have been on work permits in New Zealand, were deported following a brawl outside a pub.

“In this particular instance, given what had transpired by the actions of these two staff of MWH and the manner in which they conducted themselves in making threats to FRA, by breaching the confidentiality provisions regarding the contractual obligations between FRA and MWH, and also trying to involve third parties, they obviously breached the terms and conditions of their work visa and they were subsequently sent out of Fiji.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Government was disappointed that MWH terminated their contract prematurely, given that negotiations were going on between MWH and FRA.

Regarding the 100 plus local staff who were employed by MWH, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said they would have opportunities to apply to FRA, amongst other companies currently undertaking infrastructure development works in Fiji.

“We recognise that there are some very good staff at MWH which FRA could use and as FRA is building capacity internally, there is going to be far less dependency on consultants or consulting companies, and a lot more capacity will be built in within FRA,” he said.

“These people would be given the opportunity to apply for positions within FRA and those people who meet the requirements based on merit and based on requirements of FRA will obviously have employment opportunities.

“But, also at the same time, one must also understand that given the huge road works and the construction and infrastructures works that are carrying on in Fiji there are also employment opportunities with other consultants.”

 

Use of taxpayers’ funds and FRA’s

obligations:

“From Government’s perspective, we congratulate FRA Board for taking a position for not squandering taxpayer’s money, by standing firm,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“Any supplier of any services or products or goods to any Government entity or statutory body must justify their costs. And, it is the rightful position of that statutory body or organisation to actually ask as to how those costs were incurred.”

He said Government was hopeful a resolution would be reached between the two.

Meanwhile, some international companies have already shown interest in stepping in, including French firms.

 

Edited by Nemani Delaibatiki

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