NATION

$400K Market Query: Former Heads Of The Savusavu, Labasa Admin Under FICAC’s Radar

The $1.1 million market project began in December, 2018 and was supposed to be complete in a year.
10 Sep 2020 12:06
$400K Market Query: Former Heads Of The Savusavu, Labasa Admin Under FICAC’s Radar
Savusavu Town Council

The Savusavu and Labasa Town Councils special administrators have lodged a report with the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) against their predecessors over delays in the Savusavu Market project.

The findings claimed that $400,000 provided by Government was used for operational costs instead of allocating the funds for development.

The current municipality body is chaired by Justin Hunter, with members Doreen Robinson and Ami Kohli who were appointed along with other municipality special administrators in August last year.

The report to FICAC points to the former administration, which was overseen by Vijay Chand, a long-time administrator of Labasa and Savusavu, and long-time serving chief executive officer, Dharmendra Lal.

Mr Chand, who is in New Zealand, was sent on leave in December, 2018. It is understood that when his leave ended, he was notified in a letter that his contract was over.

Mr Lal followed suit in March, 2019.

The $1.1 million market project began in December, 2018 and was supposed to be complete in a year.

In September 2018, the United Nations Women provided $700,000 for the project. Government granted $400,000.

The report claimed no tender was advertised when some funds were released to build a temporary market for vendors while they await the new market.

By law, any project exceeding $10,000 requires a tender.

Questions were sent to FICAC which said it would respond soon.

Permanent Secretary of Local Government, Dimity Fifer, said: “I won’t be able to comment on the status or progress or anything about the report to FICAC.”

However, they were working to make sure they provide a proper market to the vendors in Savusavu, she added.

Former executives respond

When contacted yesterday Mr Lal said: “No one has informed me about the allegations or asked me for clarification.”

He claimed that the Ministry of Local Government was fully aware of the use of grant because those working in accounts were sending the financial acquittal daily.

“After I was sent on leave by the ministry last year, the council stopped carrying out the project,” he said.

“No one should blame the former management because proper procedures were followed and the ministry has the record of the financial acquittal.”

When contacted yesterday, Mr Chand said he did not wish to comment.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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