NATION

STATEMENT: Auditor-General Must Investigate Handouts

Fiji has not seen the level of government handouts that we are witnessing now under the general guise of disaster relief. I was in Lautoka last week and the crowds
26 May 2018 11:00
STATEMENT: Auditor-General Must Investigate Handouts
Unity Fiji party leader Savenaca Narube.

Fiji has not seen the level of government handouts that we are witnessing now under the general guise of disaster relief.

I was in Lautoka last week and the crowds were in these cash distribu­tion centres the entire day some un­der the sweltering western sun.

There had been several disasters in the last three years. Winston was the harshest in our history. But sur­prisingly, we did not see the magni­tude of handouts that we are seeing today.

This is most unfair to those that are still living in tents more than two years after Winston.

My heart goes out to these people. Is the level of relief assistance de­pendent on where in Fiji the disas­ter hits? It certainly appears to be so.

The pattern of assistance after each disaster is changing. The roles of the FNPF and Government are switching. After Cyclone Win­ston, the Government’s response appeared to be targeting those af­fected by the disaster although its overall performance was a disaster in itself as evident by those that are still waiting for assistance.

On the other hand, the FNPF was allowing members to withdraw funds irrespective of whether they were indeed affected by the cyclone.

I am glad to see FNPF making the effort to allow withdrawals only by those affected by the recent disas­ters. But this time, Government is giving handouts with no verifica­tion whether people deserved them or not.

The Government has recently confused the people by saying that those that are found not to be genu­ine will be penalised.

It did not threaten this in other disasters. What has brought about this change? I believe that Govern­ment has realised that its actions contravene the Finance Instruc­tions of accountability requiring it to use our money wisely.

We all know that times are ex­tremely hard in Fiji. Poverty, in my assessment, is increasing.

More and more people are fall­ing below the poverty line. Sadly, Government’s handouts encourage people to remain in poverty.

In our consultations across the West last week, people have seen through this Government tactic for what it really is.

People told us that they will vote on the performance of this Govern­ment in the last three years irre­spective of these handouts.

It is rather naïve for Government to think that the solutions to many of our problems is to throw money at us. This is irresponsible.

There is a saying that you can fool some people some time but you can­not fool all people all the time.

Voters are much more discerning now. People have told us that they will grab the cash with both hands but vote on issues.

In any case, the cash that govern­ment is throwing at us came from the taxes we paid.

The poor pay more of their in­come in taxes than the rich. Even if the cash came from donors, they should be used as effectively as pos­sible.

Untargeted assistance which are politically driven is not fair to tax payers. These untargeted spending are a misuse of taxpayers’ money.

Due in part to these types of spending, our national debt has bal­looned to nearly three times since this Government took over in 2006.

It is fast approaching $6 billion or $7,000 per man, woman, and child. In my assessment, this high debt level combined with increasing borrowing from overseas sources, especially bilateral loans, clearly signify that we have a financial cri­sis looming.

The only way to avoid such a crisis is to reduce unwarranted spend­ing to bring down the high rate at which we are borrowing.

The Government is accountable to the people on how wisely they spend our money.

The Auditor-General is our consti­tutional agent that scrutinizes gov­ernment spending on our behalf.

I call on the Auditor-General (AG) to undertake a special investigation of this misuse of taxpayer’s monies under the guise of disaster relief.

The A-G must be given the full in­dependence and access to informa­tion to do this for the people before the elections.

Unity Fiji

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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