The CEO of the Fiji Bureau of Statistics, Kemueli Naiqama has been sacked.
A government statement now says the Ministry of Economy, through the Acting Permanent Secretary, Shiri Goundar has terminated the contract of the CEO of the Fiji Bureau of Statistics, for failure to comply with Section 5 of the Statistics Act 1961.
The statement says in an unfortunate blow to the Bureau’s credibility, Naiqama endorsed the publication of unverifiable information in the Housing Income and Expenditure Survey 2019-2020 relating to ethnicity and religion – data that was revealed to be extrapolated from erroneous sources and which exceeded the established scope of the survey’s data collection.
It says by exceeding the scope of data collection and ignoring fact-based methodology, Naiqama breached the terms of his contract with the Ministry.
Under his employment contract, Naiqama will be paid all salary and accrued entitlements for the period up to 15th September 2021.
We have received information that some officials escorted Naiqama out of his office earlier this afternoon.
Calls made to his office were referred to the Ministry of Economy.
Last night, Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum raised serious concerns about the ethnic and religious data released by the Fiji Bureau of Statistics in the 2019-2020 Household Income and Expenditure Survey.
Sayed-Khaiyum says CEO of the Fiji Bureau of Statistics has not acted in line with government policy and the law.
The Minister says there was a sample of 6,000 households from 199,688 households which is 3 percent of the population. He says the question that needs to be asked is how was the sample size derived from the 6,000 households on the basis of ethnicity.
Sayed-Khaiyum says the 2017 census data was used as a survey frame although the 2017 census had no reliable ethnic data, which make these statistics unreliable.
The Attorney General says the report is flawed.
We have been unable to get comments from Naiqama.
Under the Statistics Act 1961 which was updated in 2016, the Minister for Economy appoints the Government Statistician.
Section 5 of the Act also says that with the approval and following the direction of the Minister for Economy, the Government Statistician shall collect statistics relating to any matter listed in a schedule in the act.
The Fiji Bureau of Statistics 2019-2020 Household Income and Expenditure Survey confirms 29.9 percent of Fijians, or about 258,000 individuals in 45,724 households, lived under the Basic Needs Poverty Line of $41.91 per adult equivalent per week.
This means that three out of ten Fijians were living in poverty in 2019-2020, with rural poverty still much higher than urban poverty.
According to the Bureau of Statistics, 160,450 people in rural areas are living in absolute poverty while 97,602 people in urban areas are living in absolute poverty.
The bureau says poverty was higher in rural areas standing at 41.5 percent than urban areas at 20.4 percent, with 62.2 percent of the poor living in rural areas.
Based on the bureau’s poverty estimates and distribution, 192,977 iTaukei, 58,933 Indo Fijians and 6,143 from the others population makeup are living in absolute poverty. This means the iTaukei made up 74.8 percent of those people living in absolute poverty, Indo Fijians made up 22.8 percent while other communities made up 2.4 percent. It has also been revealed that 134,060 males and 123,992 females were living in absolute poverty when the survey was conducted from February 2019 to February last year.
People’s Alliance Party Leader, Sitiveni Rabuka has branded the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s outbursts as stupid after Sayed-Khaiyum’s comments regarding the Fiji Bureau of Statistics and it’s 2019-2020 Household Income and Expenditure Survey.
Rabuka says Sayed-Khaiyum should not just go around blasting people whenever information is revealed.
The former Prime Minister says it is sad to see the government does not agree with the statistics done by it’s own people.
He also says it is concerning how the CEO of the Fiji Bureau of Statistics, Kemueli Naiqama has been removed.
Fiji Labour Party, Mahendra Chaudhry says it is a sad state of affairs and the Economy Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum should accept the truth and stop questioning the credibility of government departments when their reports do not suit his political agenda.
Chaudhry says sacking a person without giving the CEO of the Fiji Bureau of Statistics, Kemueli Naiqama the right to defend himself is disgraceful, shameful and unethical.
Chaudhry says by any standards, the 2019-2020 Household Income and Expenditure Survey reveals the highly damning socio-economic conditions in the country, more specifically, in relation to the shocking social conditions of the indigenous Fijian community.
However he says this data is already outdated.
He says the social distress and the suffering of the people today is much more acute than it was in 2019, prior to the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy and the massive job losses it triggered.
Chaudhry says Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum needs to come to terms with the fact that the government, in control of national affairs in the past 14 years, has not only wrecked the economy, it has inflicted untold miseries on the people through its failed policies and gross mismanagement.
He says no amount of rubbishing of statistical data will hide this reality.
Chaudhry says for too long the policy of the government has been to conceal the disparities that exist between the different communities by refusing to publish vital statistical data based on race.
He says the FLP believes this is wrong as in a plural society comprising several different ethnic communities, it is vital that socio-economic data is available to show how government policies are affecting each group – whether they are benefitting or receiving a fair share of State resources.
Chaudhry says social justice and fair opportunities for all is an essential pillar of the principles on which the Labour Party is founded.
SODELPA Leader, Viliame Gavoka says to hear that the Fiji Bureau of Statistics CEO, Kemueli Naiqama, was unceremoniously dismissed and escorted off premises for the poverty report in Fiji, says a lot about the type of democracy we have in Fiji.
Gavoka says SODELPA wants the Fiji Bureau of Statistics to have independence from any undue outside influence, especially from a government that has been hyping about a boom that many knew was not true.
He says the collection, compilation, analysis, abstraction and publishing of statistical information relating to the economic and general activities must be carried out without fear and SODELPA tells the Attorney General and the FijiFirst, ‘hands off’.
Gavoka says let the truth be told as we do not want to live under an illusion.
He says it is shameful hearing the report that the CEO of the Bureau of Statistics was escorted out of his office.
The SODELPA Leader says the Bureau of Statistics in democracies are responsible for promoting and safeguarding the production and publication of official statistics which serve the common good.
He says it is independent of ministers and instead report directly to Parliament.
National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad says the termination of Fiji Bureau and Statistics CEO Kemueli Naiqama’s contract shows the dictatorial and military-style operation by the government.
Prasad says the government is removing good people who they think are not doing according to what the government wants.
He says the press conference by Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to attack the Bureau shows that they were not happy with the results because it looked bad for the government.
Prasad says the preliminary report by the Bureau which came out in February said that around 30% of the people live within the poverty line, and this was accepted by the government.
Prasad also says that the Bureau has been conducting this kind of surveys over so many years.
He says they use the 3 to 4 percent sample which is better than the sampling size used in Australia and New Zealand.
Prasad adds that the only reason Sayed-Khaiyum is not happy with the report is that that is the reality on the ground and it shows the incompetency of the government in dealing with poverty issues.
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