Analysis | Politics

Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption Probe On Members of Parliament A Grave Concern

Now this is a very tricky matter. Often, abuse of funds is an open and shut case, but this is not the case here and FICAC will have to cast a wide net and closely examine various facts and trends to fully investigate this matter.
15 May 2020 13:52
Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption Probe On Members of Parliament A Grave Concern

Analysis:

Secretary-General to Parliament Viniana Namosimalua’s complaint to the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) against certain Members of Parliament is of grave concern.

What does the law say? What are the hypothetical situations? In what scenario have some MPs broken the law?

Now this is a very tricky matter. Often, abuse of funds is an open and shut case, but this is not the case here and FICAC will have to cast a wide net and closely examine various facts and trends to fully investigate this matter.

What does the law say?

The law, which will be the focus of this investigation is the Parliamentary Remunerations Act, specifically Part B, which deals with Allowances.

This says that Members of Parliament including Deputy Speaker, Government/Opposition Whip and Leader of Government in Parliament and excluding the Prime Minister, Ministers, Speaker and the Leader of Opposition are entitled to:

1. Accommodation allowance – for meetings of Parliament or Committee, if the member permanently resides at any place more than 30 kilometres away from the place of meeting of Parliament or Committee, then the member shall be entitled to an allowance of $350 per day plus $30 per meal.

2. Travelling allowance – for meetings of Parliament or Committee, if the member permanently resides at any place more than 30 kilometres away from place of meeting of Parliament or Committee, then the member shall be entitled to cost of travel by the most direct route to and from the meeting. Allowances in respect to motor vehicles shall be payable up to the following rates –

a. Vehicles of up to and equal to 2000 cc – 50 cents per kilometre; and

b. Vehicles of 2001 cc or over – 60 cents per kilometre

3. Committee Sitting Allowance – for committee sittings on days other than the sitting of Parliament, the member shall be entitled to an allowance of $200 per day

Hypothetical scenarios

The law clearly specifies the word “permanently resides”. This is what FICAC will need to grapple with.

It is understood that some MPs have residences on the mainland and much closer to the Parliamentary complex, but have been claiming that they have been travelling from their residences, which are on their islands or further away from the city centre.

Some MPs were noted to have been living in their city residences on most days, but a day or two before a Committee sitting or before Parliament sits, they go back to their village or island only to fly back or drive back for the sitting to claim these allowances.

A mammoth task lies ahead of FICAC, but it is a job that needs to be done with earnest. These MPs have been paid using taxpayers’ funds and this is a gross misconduct, it is clearly fooling the Parliament and the taxpayers to fill their own pockets.

One just needs to question why an MP would fly back to their island or drive back to their village just before a Committee or Parliament sitting when they have residences in or near Suva?

It defies logic. Any MP who would have had the best of this country at heart would not stoop to this level of treachery to gain ill-gotten wealth.

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