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FICAC and Auditor General's Office make opposing statements on 2010 audit of Rewa Dairy consultancy contract

FICAC and Auditor General's Office make opposing statements on 2010 audit of Rewa Dairy consultancy contract

By Fijivillage
Wednesday 05/02/2020
Auditor General, Ajay Nand (middle) while presenting their Annual Report to the Public Accounts Committee. [Photo:File Photo]

FICAC and Auditor General's Office make opposing statements on 2010 audit of Rewa Dairy consultancy contract (Wednesday 05/02/2020)
By Vijay Narayan and Naveel Krishant
 

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The Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption has now released a statement that FICAC stands by it’s position that the 2010 Auditor General’s Report relating to the Rewa Dairy consultancy contract was not reliable as the report lacked a detailed inquiry and was based on a single person’s vague response.

FICAC says this was the correct position reflected in the Auditor General's documents obtained through a search warrant and later confirmed by the officer responsible for the audit in his interview with FICAC.

The Commission says the interview verbatim is available as proof of that fact.

FICAC further wishes to clarify that the Commission's inquiry was in criminal nature and under the Criminal Procedure Act and there was no requirement to obtain any formal "comment" as claimed by the Auditor General's Office.

The Commission says FICAC acted under the powers given to the Commission in requiring a Public Servant (the officer of the Auditor General) to answer relevant questions.

It also says that when FICAC requested for the relevant documents from the office of the Auditor General with a search warrant in the first place, the FICAC Officer was told that the documents were not available at the Office of the Auditor General.

The Commission says when FICAC conducted a prompt inquiry again, it was found that the relevant documents were, in fact, still available with the Office of the Auditor General, contrary to their initial claim, and the documents were then released to the Commission.

FICAC says this not only misled the Commission, but also delayed the inquiry.

FICAC says it also fails to understand the relevance of the statement "the  Auditor General is also responsible for the audit of the financial statement of the Commission" as it is out of context.

The Commission also says that FICAC respects the functions of the Auditor General under the Constitution. FICAC says it will always accommodate the audit as long as the Office of the Auditor

General acts within its legal mandate, unlike the audit inquiry conducted on the tender issue of the Rewa Dairy Cooperative Limited.

 

FICAC rules no merit to the complaint made by RabukaTuesday 04/02/2020
By Naveel Krishant

ficac-case-SM

FICAC Acting Deputy Commissioner, Rashmi Aslam and Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka.

FICAC has ruled that there is no merit to the complaint made by Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka regarding the 2010 Rewa Dairy Restructure Consultancy contract award of $500,000 Aliz Pacific without tender.

FICAC Acting Deputy Commissioner, Rashmi Aslam says the complaint  warrants no further action or proceedings by the Commission.

Aslam says despite the significant delay in complaining, 9 years after the alleged matter, the Commission commenced an inquiry to ascertain, verify and analyze the credibility of the evidence and the dependability of the facts alleged in the complaint which were based on the Auditor General’s report of 2010. He says a thorough inquiry was conducted into the complaint, analyzing all relevant evidence obtained during the inquiry.

He says it is pertinent to note that the initial engagement of Aliz Pacific as the consulting firm to provide the strategic plan, in fact emanated from the Rewa Co-operative Dairy Company Board as a result of a tender published on the 20th of February 2009 in the Fiji Sun calling for expressions of interest.

He says as per the advertisement, the purpose of the tender was to formulate a strategic plan that would assist the company to adapt to the challenges in the market place and also provide leadership in  the dairy industry which included the following, facilitate a strategic seminar workshop and provide a draft strategic report, provide a draft corporate governance police and provide a draft risk management policy.

Aslam says subsequently Aliz Pacific was awarded the tender by the Rewa Co-operative Dairy Company Board to carry out the stated task in early 2009. He adds this tender process by the Rewa Co-operative Dairy Company Board was done independently, on it own volition.

Aslam further states that no member of the cabinet nor the Attorney General had any say in this process when the company decided to engage the services of Aliz Pacific in this initial stage adding that therefore any speculation that the engagement of Aliz Pacific was due to any personal interest of any person outside the board has no merit.

He says there was no cabinet decision to provide the consultancy contract to any specific firm adding that as such, the involvement of cabinet members as alleged in the complaint has no merit.

FICAC also adds that Rabuka heavily relied upon the Auditor General’s report of 2010. He says therefore it is important to verify the facts and related opinion in the stated report.

He says the report per se is not evidence as alluded in the complaint and matters must be independently verified in the criminal proceedings.

Rabuka had lodged a complaint with FICAC last month.

Rabuka had asked FICAC to investigate various offences which may have been allegedly committed.

Rabuka’s complaint was regarding the failure to comply with Government financial procurement procedures laid out in the 2005 Finance Instructions issued by the then Finance Minister following the enactment of the Financial Management Act 2004.

He had said the Court of Appeal and High Court judgment in Aliz Pacific vs. Attorney General confirmed that on 27th April 2010, Cabinet decided to award the Rewa Dairy Restructure consultancy contract to Aliz Pacific.

Rabuka says, however, the 2005 Finance Instructions require a competitive public tender for all expenditure over $50,001 and this was not done.

FICAC's statement on 2010 Auditor General's report is factually incorrect - Auditor General's Office (Tuesday 04/02/2020)
By Vijay Narayan and Naveel Krishant

aduitor-general

The Office of the Auditor-General has stated that FICAC’s statement that the Auditor General’s Report of 2010 “was not reliable as the report lacked a detailed inquiry and was based on a single person’s vague response” is factually incorrect.

The Auditor General’s Office is referring to the news report  where FICAC has determined that “the complaint lodged by the Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka against Rewa Dairy Cooperative Limited has no merit and warrants no further action or proceedings by the Commission.”

The office says these matters have not been formally submitted to the Auditor General’s Office for comments by the media.

They have also stated that the Auditor General is also responsible for the audit of the financial statements of FICAC.

The office also says the Petition and Affidavit for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court were filed by the petitioners, Aliz Pacific & Nur Bano Ali v Auditor General and Attorney General with the Supreme Court on 9th January this year and served on the solicitors of the Office of the Auditor General on 10th January.

The office says fresh instructions have been issued to their solicitors to represent the Auditor General in the matter.

The Office of the Auditor General says it will respect the court process hence will not be issuing any further statements on the matter.

Meanwhile Opposition Leader, Sitiveni Rabuka says the FICAC report in regards to his complaint regarding the 2010 Rewa Dairy Restructure Consultancy contract award of $500,000 to Aliz Pacific without tender appears to be a paper review.

Rabuka says that FICAC must interview the Prime Minister, Attorney General and ministers, and publish the 2010 cabinet paper, the Rewa Dairy consultancy contract, and must interview the Rewa Dairy board and senior officials to get the truth to the public.

He says he is seeking further legal advice and the legal team is reviewing the 8 page report compiled in two weeks by FICAC.

Meanwhile, FICAC Acting Deputy Commissioner, Rashmi Aslam says it was reported that the Rewa Co-operative Dairy Company had encountered numerous and serious financial mismanagement, therefore on 23rd January 2004, the board invited PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an audit on the financial affairs of the company.

Aslam says as is evident from the available documents there were many allegations of bribery and corruption against several officials of the company.

He says the report recommended a comprehensive study of several important aspects inter alia revamping the company’s structure. 

He adds that it can be safely said that the restructure of the company was not a novel idea conceived in 2009 or 2010, but was an imperative task awaiting desperate and immediate action to revitalize its operations.

Aslam has ruled that there is no merit to the complaint made by Rabuka and the complaint warrants no further action or proceedings by the Commission.

He says FICAC has made the conclusion that cabinet had approved the restructure of the Rewa Co-operative Dairy Company and documents also show that cabinet did not approve that the consultancy services for Rewa Dairy’s restructure in 2010 be awarded to any specific firm.

Aslam says the cabinet had approved $500,000 be sourced from the National Export Strategy budget held with the Ministry of Agriculture and Trade and Industry and cabinet had approved the registration of two entities named Fiji Dairy Company Limited and Fiji Dairy Cooperative Company Limited.

Aslam says they wish to state on the outset that the threshold of proving a matter that comes within the purview of the Commission,  as the people are aware, is very high threshold and requires proof beyond reasonable doubt. 

He says the degree of proof and the burden of it is different and inevitably higher than that of the Auditor General’s auditing and reporting mechanisms. 

Aslam adds it is also a higher degree of proof than what is required in civil proceedings in court, i.e. the defamation case between Aliz Pacific and the Auditor General, as referred to in the complaint.

The complaint by Rabuka had alleged that the senior officials in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Public Service Commission, the Solicitor General’s Office, all members of the cabinet including the Prime Minister and the Attorney General, the consulting firm- Aliz Pacific and Dr. Nur Bano Ali are in breach of the abuse of office and dishonesty offences under the Crimes Act of 2009.

Aslam says that it is pertinent to note that the initial engagement of Aliz Pacific as the consulting firm to provide the strategic plan, in fact, emanated from the Rewa Co-operative Dairy Company Board as a result of a tender published on the 20th of February 2009 in the Fiji Sun calling for expressions of interest.

He says as per the advertisement, the purpose of the tender was to formulate a strategic plan that would assist the company to adapt to the challenges in the market place and also provide leadership in the dairy industry which included the following, facilitate a strategic seminar-workshop and provide a draft strategic report, provide a draft corporate governance police and provide a draft risk management policy.

Aslam says subsequently Aliz Pacific was awarded the tender by the Rewa Co-operative Dairy Company Board to carry out the stated task in early 2009.

He adds this tender process by the Rewa Co-operative Dairy Company Board was done independently, on it’s own volition.

Fiji Court of Appeal dismisses appeal by Aliz Pacific Chartered Accountants and Doctor Nur Bano Ali (Saturday 30/11/2019)
By Semi Turaga

 

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The Fiji Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by Aliz Pacific Chartered Accountants and Doctor Nur Bano Ali against the Auditor General and the Attorney General.

Orders have also been made by the Fiji Court of Appeal for Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali to pay the Auditor General $5,000 as costs.

Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali had appealed the judgment delivered by High Court Judge Justice Riyaz Hamza in January last year.

In its judgment yesterday, the Fiji Court of Appeal said Justice Hamza rightly dismissed the action by Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali.

The action which was dismissed by Justice Hamza last year was seeking an injunction restraining the Auditor General or his agents from publishing any reports pertaining to Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali in relation to the restructure of Rewa Dairy Cooperative Company Limited, the court to order that the Auditor General remove those parts of the 2010 Auditor General’s reports that refer to Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali and the restructure at Rewa Dairy, the court to grant an injunction that parts of the 2010 Auditor General’s Report that are subject to litigation be removed or blacked out while the litigation is pending, a declaration that the Auditor General has defamed Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali, the court orders that the Auditor General render a public apology to Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali and the court award general and special damages to Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali.

Court dismisses Nur Bano Ali and Aliz Pacific’s application against Auditor General and Attorney General (Wednesday 07/02/2018)
By Vijay Narayan

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High Court Judge Justice Riyaz Hamza has dismissed an application filed by Aliz Pacific Chartered Accountants and Doctor Nur Bano Ali against the Auditor General and Attorney General.

Aliz Pacific and Doctor Nur Bano Ali had sought an injunction restraining the Auditor General or his agents from publishing any reports pertaining to Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali in relation to the restructure of Rewa Dairy Cooperative Company Limited, the court to order that the Auditor General remove those parts of the 2010 Auditor General’s reports that refer to Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali and the restructure at Rewa Dairy, the court to grant an injunction that parts of the 2010 Auditor General’s Report that are subject to litigation be removed or blacked out while the litigation is pending, a declaration that the Auditor General has defamed Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali, the court orders that the Auditor General render a public apology to Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali and the court award general and special damages to Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali.

Justice Hamza has dismissed the action filed by Aliz Pacific and Doctor Ali as he says that tenders were not called for the restructure of the Rewa Dairy Cooperative Company Limited.

The judge says the Rewa Dairy Cooperative Company Board was informed by a representative of Aliz Pacific Consultants in a board meeting on 17th May, 2010 that Government through the Ministry of Industry and Trade had appointed Aliz Pacific's consultancy firm to implement the restructure of the company.

Justice Hamza also says that it has been agreed by parties that the Government of Fiji paid Aliz Pacific $562,500 including VAT of $62,500 for the services rendered pursuant to the Memorandum of Agreement.

Justice Hamza says the statement that the Government did pay Aliz Pacific $562,500 in 2010 in consultancy fees, is factually correct.

He says the next issue to determine is as to whether a tender must be called for the procurement of goods, services or works valued at $30,001 and more.

Justice Hamza says the 2010 Audit Report has made reference to Section 11 of Finance Instructions 2010.

He says the act that a tender must be called for the procurement of goods, services or works valued at $30,001.00 and more is based on the Finance Instructions 2010.

The High Court Judge says he agrees with the Auditor General's assertion that the statements were statements of facts and were true in substance and in fact.

He says the comments in the statement were based on the said statement of facts and can be considered as fair comments on a matter of public interest.

Justice Hamza says the Auditor General also submits that the said statements and comments were not published maliciously or with any malicious intent.

The judge says that having considered all the evidence as a whole, he is of the opinion that Aliz Pacific and Doctor Nur Bano Ali have failed to establish on a balance of probabilities that the statements and words are defamatory and were published maliciously by the Auditor General. 

Consultancy contract to Aliz Pacific should be investigated - Auditor General (Wednesday 12/11/2014)
By Vijay Narayan

aduitor-general

The Auditor General's Office has recommended that a detailed investigation should be conducted on how the Ministry of Trade and Industry awarded a consultancy contract of $500,000 for the restructure of Rewa Cooperative Dairy Company to Aliz Pacific.

It has been highlighted in the Auditor General's Report for 2010 that the contract was given without going through an open public tender process.

According to the Auditor General a tender must be called for the procurement of goods, services or works valued at $30,001 and more.

The report states that in a meeting held on 27th April 2010, cabinet approved the restructure of Rewa Dairy and that a sum of $500,000 be sourced from the National Export Strategy budget held with the Ministry of Trade and Industry for restructure.

Following the cabinet decision, the ministry on the 9th of July 2010, signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Aliz Pacific Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors to implement the restructure of Rewa Dairy.

The Auditor General noted that the project for the restructuring of Rewa Dairy involved a substantial sum of public funds and was not put out for public tender.

The audit report also states that from initial discussions with the officials of the Ministry, the audit team was informed that Rewa Dairy facilitated the tender process.

Upon enquiry with the company, the Auditor General's Office noted that they did not call or facilitate any tender.

However the report said Rewa Dairy did put out an Expression of Interest in February 2009 to facilitate a strategic seminar workshop, provide a draft Corporate Governance Policy and provide a draft Risk Management Policy.

Aliz Pacific was engaged for the Strategic Planning Process including facilitating a workshop for management and stakeholders at a cost of $35,450 to Rewa Dairy.

The Ministry says the proposed restructure was discussed and agreed to as the way forward followed by the cabinet decision which identified the Project Team to undertake and oversee the process. The Ministry said cabinet also identified consultants, Aliz Pacific to be part of the Project Team.

It also said that it should be noted that prior approval of the Solicitor General's Office was sought before finalizing the contract with the consultants.

The Ministry said it was guided by the cabinet decision which had already identified the consultants and as such there was no need for the tender process.

However the Office of the Auditor General says the tender awarded to Aliz Pacific in 2009 was only for the Strategic Planning Process which included facilitating a workshop for management and stakeholders. It says tenders were not called for the restructure of Rewa Dairy.

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