NATION

Vendor Fee ‘Scam’ Claim

The claims surfaced after the vendors were served with notices to vacate their stalls next to the Tebara Plaza.
11 Feb 2020 10:06
Vendor Fee ‘Scam’ Claim
A receipts issued to the vendors. Photo: Shalveen Chand

Illegal market vendors in Nakasi have claimed they were scammed into paying fees to the Nausori Town Council branch in their area.

They alleged that they paid up to $15,000 since 2017 and they had receipts to show as evidence.

The council’s acting chief executive officer, Lydia Lazel-Racule, said she had received a report from the staff member said to be implicated in the alleged scam and she was looking into it. The staff member told the Fiji Sun: “Talk to my CEO. I will not make any comments to the media.”

Photos of the receipts and questions were sent to Ms Lazel-Racule but she said last night she wanted to see the original receipts. She would refer her response to the ministry before it is released to the media.

The claims surfaced after the vendors were served with notices to vacate their stalls next to the Tebara Plaza.

The vendors alleged they were told that the fee of $6 per week was for garbage collection and for the building of a new market at Nakasi.

Their spokesperson, Esita Tatalau, said they started paying in 2017 but that came to a stop last year.

“We were told by a person in the Nakasi Office to pay for the garbage collection. In a meeting we had, we were told some of the money was for the vendors when the new market would be made,” she said.

Ms Tatalau claimed the council employee had tasked another vendor, Isimeli Batibalei, also known as Jese, to collect the money and issue the receipts.

The receipts neither had the council letterhead nor the tax identification number, she alleged.

Mr Batibalei confirmed his role. He claimed all the money he collected was given to the staff member in question.

“He used to say $80 is for the council and $220 is for the market vendors. He said $80 was the cost of transport once the rubbish has been taken away,” Mr Batibalei claimed.

“He took all the money. Every week we had to give him $300. From 1 to 50 tickets. $15,000 was the total amount we had given to him.

“He would say that the market had its plans and drawings. I was just collecting the money and giving it to him.”

Some of the receipts issued to the vendors. Photo: Shalveen Chand

Some of the receipts issued to the vendors. Photo: Shalveen Chand

Officials at the council had not seen the receipts before.

Vendors said they had been told to relocate to Nausori Market, but it was full.

Pravin Narayan used to be a market vendor when the old Nausori Market was in operation. He said he had failed to get a place when the new market opened.

“My name is on an application form for a space since the new Nausori Market opened. The town council is telling us that there is space there,” Mr Narayan said.

“I would like the council to tell me what my stall number is.”

Mereoni Tiqaloyawa said they do not want to move.

“I stay in Valelevu. Going to Nausori is an extra expense. Why can’t the council make a proper market here and we can’t get places at Laqere Market because it is full,” she said.

Some vendors in Nakasi on February 10, 2020. Photo: Shalveen Chand

Some vendors in Nakasi on February 10, 2020. Photo: Shalveen Chand

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: shalveen.chand@fijisun.com.fj

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