Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry is now calling for Commissioner of FICAC Rashmi Aslam to also be investigated for clearing Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem 13 months ago of all allegations relating to the fraudulent payments made to the chair and members of the Electoral Commission which it is now being forced to re-investigate.
Chaudhry says on 21st December a complaint on this issue was lodged with FICAC by three political parties – FLP, Unity Fiji and Freedom Alliance.
He says they had asked FICAC to investigate allegations that Mohammed Saneem as Secretary to the Electoral Commission had facilitated fraudulent claims of payments to the former chairman of the Electoral Commission for sitting allowances at the rate of $500 per sitting, when the Commission did not have any scheduled meetings.
FICAC replied on 28th January 2022 clearing the former chairman and Saneem of the allegations and describing the allegations as “baseless and without any merit”.
Chaudhry says FICAC said it had “initiated a thorough investigation and verified all relevant documents relating to the alleged payments …and wish to advise that there is no evidence whatsoever to support any false or fraudulent payments claimed by Suresh Chandra and Mohammed Saneem.”
Aslam said in a letter that all payments made were legitimate payments verified and made in accordance with the Electoral Commission’s Governance and Operational Guidelines.
Chaudhry alleges that these documents were effectively removed from the records of the Fijian Elections Office.
He questions why was this necessary if Saneem and the former chairman had done nothing wrong.
Chaudhry says in view of this, he is pleased that the Fijian Elections Office itself has now referred this very matter to FICAC for re-investigation.
The FLP Leader says FICAC as an independent and, seemingly, autonomous investigative authority is answerable to the taxpayers of Fiji.
Chaudhry says Deputy Commissioner Rashmi Aslam must be held accountable for how he could have possibly come to the conclusion that their claims were “baseless and without merit”.
He says Aslam must be investigated, as must all the other members of the Electoral Commission who allegedly accepted the fraudulent payments even for attending social functions.
Chaudhry says the FEO in its statement issued today claims that on numerous occasions, Saneem had “unlawfully authorised” payment of sitting allowances to the Chair and members of the Electoral Commission even for events other than meetings, including social functions.
Chaudhry says just yesterday, he wrote to the Attorney General, Siromi Turaga asking that the case be re-opened for a thorough investigation.
We have sent questions to FICAC and Attorney General, Siromi Turaga.
They are yet to respond.
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