HRW Calls for Pressure on Fiji: Fiji Times

By Nasik Swami

THE New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on its member states to apply pressure on the Fijian Government during its UN human rights review underway in Geneva.

The HRW says applying pressure on the Government will contribute towards ending ill-treatment in detention, cease harassment and arbitrary arrest of its citizens.

The international body told the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review that it needs to inform the Fijian Government to guarantee protection of human rights defenders, respect freedom of expression and order investigations into allegations of security forces abuses.

“The UPR review in Geneva is a unique occasion to test whether the new Fiji Government can seriously address its human rights problems,” HRW said.

It said the Constitution granted “absolute and unconditional immunity” to all members of public services and security forces, as well as public office holders, for actions taken during the 2006 coup d’état until the formation of the new Parliament.

The HRW claimed that during its 2009 UPR review, Fiji accepted recommendations to take active measures to investigate and prosecute those responsible for acts of torture and ill-treatment, and put an end to immunity for members of the military and police force.

“There is little evidence to suggest that Fiji has implemented these recommendations.

“For example, the Fiji Government took no action when a video surfaced in March 2013 depicting what appears to be Fijian soldiers torturing and beating two men.

“When asked whether there would be an investigation, then-Commodore Bainimarama responded that he would stick by his men and officials implicated in the incident.”

The HRW urged member states to make concrete, time-bound recommendations to the Government of Fiji to respect basic civil and political rights.

FSGWU To Go Ahead With Ballots: Fiji Times

By Shalveen Chand

Bro. Mikaele Mataka at a 2006 union workshop with another workshop attendant. (Picture: Fiji Times)

THE Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union will go ahead with its annual conference where office bearers will be elected despite requests by the Fijian Elections Office to defer the meet.

FSGWU acting general secretary Mikaele Mataka said they had provided the elections office with information concerning the upcoming ballots.

Labour Minister Jioji Konrote had said in Parliament that all union elections would be facilitated by the elections office to ensure transparency and accountability.

“They have asked us to defer the election but haven’t given us a reason as to why,” Mr Mataka said.

“They wanted the names of the financial members who will be voting and we have provided them with that also,” Mr Mataka said.

“I have been directed by the executive of the union to continue with preparatory work and I have been doing that to ensure that we have our meeting on November 22.

“I have been corresponding with the FEO and they are yet to inform us on how they plan to carry out the election of office bearers.

Mr Mataka said the elections office would facilitate the voting process to ensure transparency and accountability.

“Other than that, I don’t see what role will they have in the election and I think all information they need has been given to them,” he added.

Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem, in response to questions sent to him regarding unions and elections, said the elections office would be making an announcement on this in November.

The FSGWU meeting is scheduled for November 22 at the Lautoka Hotel and nominations for office bearers closes this weekend.

No Quotations on $72,000 Used: FBC

By Edwin Nand

The 2013 Auditor General’s report states there are numerous breaches of procurement and payments procedures in the Agriculture Ministry in 2013.

From a sample selected for audit, it was found that payment vouchers worth more than $264,000 have been misplaced.

These include a total of $46,000 paid to Tanoa Hotel, $28,000 for Penaia Contractors, Viti Vanua Holdings $37,500 and $27,000 to Bulileka Hire Services.
Four payment I.D’s for the Permanent Secretary Agriculture worth $23,346 – were recorded however there are no payment vouchers.

The Ministry of Agriculture spent $72,794 without any competitive quotations being obtained, buying 3 chainsaws, 4,200kgs of ginger seeds and other expenses.

$11,483 was spent on a cattle trough and $12,000 for stainless steel coconut scrapper.

The Audit report says there was a considerable level of non-compliance with finance instructions in 2013.

Fiji to Report on Human Rights Laws: FBC

By FBC News

Fiji’s Human Rights laws will be reviewed during the 20th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.

Fiji is among 14 countries that are scheduled to have their human rights records examined under this mechanism.

The UN’s office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says reviewing of Fiji’s Human Rights laws is scheduled for Wednesday.

Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has left for Geneva to represent the government at the session.

Sayed-Khaiyum will respond to questions based on the shadow Human Rights report that will be submitted by non-government organisations.

The session will look at several issues including promoting women’s rights, the democratic process and the recent elections, freedom of religion and expression, rights to housing and sanitation, the administration of justice and the role of the Human Rights Commission.

Representatives from Japan, Namibia and Russia will serve as Rapporteurs for the review of Fiji.

Human Rights Watch, which is among those who’ve made submissions, says the review is a test of whether the new Fiji government can seriously address its human rights proble

Civil Service Reforms Could Mean Job Losses: FBC

Public Service Minister – Aiyaz Sayed-Kahiyum says they need to fix the fundamental structure of the civil service – an important component of the economy that’s been lagging behind.

Speaking on FBC TV’s 4 the record program on Sunday Sayed-Khaiyum says an external party with similar expertise will be invited to carry out the comprehensive reform.

He says the outcome of the review will determine if there will be job losses – but one thing’s for certain, civil servants are in for a major overhaul

“We not here to slash and burn, we here to essentially get the fundamentals right and we will work through that process with all the civil servants.”

Sayed-Kahiyum is confident the study will be complete, and all its findings implemented, within one year.

The civil service will retain skilled staff and re-direct them, to front line services if need be.

Poor Records of Spending: Fiji Times

By Shalveen Chand

THE Prime Minister’s Office in 2013 was found to have an unreconciled variance of $1.06million between the Financial Management and Information System general ledger Trust Cash at Bank account and their bank reconciliation balance.

This was stated in the Auditor-General’s report 2013 tabled in Parliament on Friday and released yesterday.

Auditor-General Tevita Bolanavanua noted that other anomalies in the books of the Prime Minister’s Office included the non-receipting of direct deposits and overstatement of interest earned.

He said the nature of payments in the 2013 trust fund statement of receipts and payment were also not disclosed appropriately to ensure the disclosure consistency and comparability with the 2012 figures.

Poor reconciliation, non-recording of bank charges, interest and non submission of annual acquittal reports to the donor were some of the administrative and accounting anomalies in the Prime Minister’s Office.

For the Public Service Commission for a particular account, accounts receivables had a debit balance of $10.7million.

It was noted that no reconciliation was provided so the audit could not substantiate the correctness of the balance.

There were recommendations made by Mr Bolanavanua to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Public Service Commission.

Government Overspending : Fiji Times

By Siteri Sauvakacolo

THREE government ministries and two government departments overspent their budgeted appropriation, according to the 2009 Auditor-General’s Report.

These were the Fiji Police Force, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women and Social Welfare, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, the Ministry of Works and Transport and the Department of Information.

Auditor-General Tevita Bolanavanua said the reason for the over-expenditures in 2009 were mainly because of the over-spending on salaries and allowances.

The report – that was released on Monday noted that public debt in 2009 totalled $3.1 billion and comprised domestic loans $2.5 billion or 80 per cent of the total debt while overseas loans accounted for $527.2 million or 17 per cent and treasury bills at $97.7 million or 3 per cent.

In the same year, Government borrowings totalled $503 million of which $404.2 million or 80 per cent was through domestic bonds, $97.7 million or 19 per cent treasury bills and $1.1 million or 0.2 per cent in overseas loans.

According to the report, the total expenditures for 2009 amounting to $1.9 billion had increased by $230.9m or 14 per cent from 2008 and recorded an overall savings of $133.5m compared with a savings of $100.2m in 2008.

The overall savings arose from savings in established staff by $2.8 million, wage-earners by $0.4m, travel and communications by $1.9m, maintenance and operations by $8.7m, purchase of goods and services by $0.4m, operating grants and transfers by $7.9m,

pensions and gratuities by $1.5m and charges on account on public debt by $59.9m and VAT by $10.1m.

RFMF’s $20 million “for coup” : Fiji Times

By Siteri Sauvakacolo

IN 2007, the RFMF’s total expenditure for the purchase of various military stores and camp equipment surpassed $21m — incurring an over-expenditure total of $20,183,924.

However, the RFMF said the expenses incurred were “essential” for the events of December 5, 2006.

This was highlighted in the Auditor-General’s 2007 report.

They were allocated an initial budget of $964,928 for the purchase of equipment that year.

“Standard Government procurement procedures such as obtaining approval from the Major Tenders Board were not complied with,” it reported.

“However, the RFMF later sought retrospective approval from the Minister for Finance through a Cabinet IGCP (07) 291 for the over-expenditure and waiver of approval by the Major Tenders Boards.

“A physical verification of the items purchased revealed that most have not been used and were lying idle in the Store Room and items such as Jungle Hats and Anti Ballistic Glasses were not needed in 2007 because there were stock left from previous years or not used during the year.”

The Auditor-General recommended that excessive purchasing of goods and services not budgeted for should be avoided. The Auditor-General did not receive comment from the RFMF management on this issue.

Outrageous Salaries While Poor Suffer

(People living under the poverty line in squatter settlements. Picture: spayfiji)

While 30 % of Fiji’s population suffer in poverty, the government sees it fit to reward itself with ridiculously extravagant pay packages.

The extravagant packages for the PM and his Ministers were gazetted in the Parliamentary Renumerations Decree on Friday 3rd October.

The FTUC seeks to remind government of the many poor people in the country, the exploitation of labour for a small price, the lowest National Minimum Wage ever to be established.

It is a disappointment that the Bainimarama-led government sees it fit to reward its ministers with these salaries that begin from  a staggering $328, 750 for the man himself. All this at a time when Fijians struggle to afford the basic necessities.

We implore the Government to put the needs of the people first. This self-serving action is disgusting and the people of Fiji has now seen for themselves what the government is really all about.

President: non-taxable salary of $130,000.
Prime Minister: total package of $328,750
Finance Minister: $235,000
Health, Education, Infrastructure and Transport Ministers: $200,000
Other ministers: $185,000
Assistant ministers: $90,000
Speaker: $150,000.
Leader of the Opposition: $120,000.
All other MPs: $50,000.

ILO Mission Meets with FTUC

Representatives  from the Fiji Trades Union Congress grabbed the opportunity to highlight issues faced by unions in Fiji during a meeting with the ILO Contacts Mission in Suva yesterday.

Decrees, Regulations set up by the government directly affecting unions were also discussed.

The FTUC hopes that the ILO Contacts Mission team will see it fit to take the necessary actions against the repressive legislations and include the issues highlighted in its Report to the Governing Body.

The FTUC demands that this government recognizes and upholds the ILO principles for the benefit of our local workers.

The Mission was sent to Fiji to probe labour rights violations that was highlighted by former FTUC National Secretary, Felix Anthony.

The team was kicked out by the Bainimarama-led government in 2012.