NEWS

Peniasi Daveta Testifies Against Nawaikula

This occurred on the third day of Nawaikula’s trial. He was charged with obtaining travel and accommodation allowances to a total value of $20,201.35.
31 Mar 2022 14:50
Peniasi Daveta Testifies Against Nawaikula
Niko Nawaikula outside the High Court in Suva on March 30, 2022. Photo: Ashna Kumar

Peniasi Devata testified in court against SODELPA Member of Parliament Niko Nawaikula yesterday.

Mr Devata was the SODELPA Communications officer and former Opposition Office staff member.

This occurred on the third day of Nawaikula’s trial. He was charged with obtaining travel and accommodation allowances to a total value of $20,201.35.

 

Charges

Nawaikula was charged by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) with one count each of false information to a public servant and of obtaining financial advantage.

Nawaikula was alleged to have falsely stated that his permanent place of residence was in Buca village, Buca Bay, and allegedly obtained $20,201.35 between August 2019 and April 2020.

It was alleged that Nawaikula breached the Parliamentary Remuneration Act of 2014 when he claimed travel and accommodation allowances, which he was not entitled to.

The allegations were brought by the former Parliament Secretary-General, Viniana Namosimalua.

The trial was presided by Anti-Corruption High Court Judge, Justice Thushara Kumarage.

 

Mr Daveta tells court

Mr Daveta told the court that from 2019 to mid-2020, he worked as SODELPA Opposition caucus staff based at the Opposition Office in Parliament.

Amongst his various roles was also a constituency officer, media officer, and messenger, processing records of claims for allowances of Parliament.

He said he had to compile claims forms based on the information provided by the MPs to him and submit them to Parliament.

He also said in most cases he had filled the claim forms on behalf of the MPs, verified the information with the receipts and documents submitted, present it to his senior officer who would cross-check it before it was submitted to the Secretary-General’s Office.

He further said that there were also times when he followed up with the companies to verify information on the documents and receipts submitted if he was unclear.

Mr Daveta told the court that there were two forms that the MPs signed which were named GP 21 and GP 8.

He further told the court that the forms were mostly signed by the MPs before the forms were filled and it was done just to ease the workload during Parliament sessions.

Justice Kumarage asked the witness whether the procedure of signing the forms before they were filled in was right.

Mr Daveta responded that it was done to ease the workloads because of the Parliament session in place throughout the week.

He also testified that Nawaikula and some other Members of Parliament had indicated during a caucus meeting that they would be relocating.

Mr Daveta also told the court that was not aware whether Nawaikula owned property in Koronivia, Nausori.

FICAC deputy Commissioner Rashmi Aslam showed a document to Mr Daveta and asked him to clarify to the court two receipts that were of August 28, 2019.

The document showed that there was a taxi receipt of $250 from Savusavu to Nabouwalu and there was another document for the same claim voucher which was of a Patterson Bus Service from Savusavu to Nabouwalu and to Suva amounting to $55.90.

Both the documents showed the date of August 28, 2019.

Mr Daveta told the court that he had now come to realise that double payments were made to Nawaikula.

Several claim forms filled by Mr Daveta on behalf of Nawaikula were presented by the Prosecution in court.

Mr Daveta told the court that claims in some instances, due to the absence of receipts and acquittals, he would write letters on behalf of Nawaikula and use an electronic signature of the MP to submit claims.

Mr Aslam asked the witness whether he had picked this up, and raised any issue over the two receipts of the same day.

Mr Daveta said if he had noticed it, he would have raised it with his senior colleague, however, he realised it in court while giving evidence.

Mr Aslam also submitted three different taxi receipts which Nawaikula used to make travel claims indicating he travelled between Savusavu and Buca in Vanua Levu, and from Nausori Airport to Koronivia in Viti Levu.

Mr Aslam also questioned how the same taxi was used in Vanua Levu and Viti Levu as shown in the receipts because all the receipts were in sequence.

Mr Daveta agreed that there were issues with the acquittals.

He said that it was not possible to use the same taxi in Vanua Levu and Viti Levu.

He also testified that Nawaikula had written to the Parliament Secretariat about his intention to relocate to Buca Village in Cakaudrove.

Mr Daveta told the court that Nawaikula had provided two separate letters from the Turaga Ni Koro and his business landlord in Savusavu as a compliance requirement by Parliament.

He said that Nawaikula had indicated that he was moving to Buca Village and the reason why he was using Buca as a station.

Mr Daveta said while he filled in the claim forms for Nawaikula, the last checks and balances were carried out by Parliament’s Acting Secretary-General and the Finance Department.

He further told the court that they were never provided with any training by Parliament on what to do when one wanted to change their address and how to assess the documents and that was following what was being practiced previously.

He also informed the court that Members of Parliament were entitled to accommodation of $350 and a meal allowance of $30 per meal without receipts while they had to submit receipts for travel expenses including mileage or any boat or air travel.

Mr Daveta said that amendments were made to some claim forms filled by him on behalf of Nawaikula.

 



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