The Fiji Labour Party is calling for justice for the final 318 families who are left to be refunded in the Lagilagi Housing scam.
Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry has strongly condemned the delay from the government in giving refunds to the victims.
He says these are poor families who were swindled under the scam where they had to save money from their meagre earnings to meet regular payments towards decent affordable housing for themselves.
Chaudhry says the victims are now being made to run around from pillar to post to at least recover their money without any hope of getting the homes they were promised, and he sees no reason for the continued delay in repaying these poor people.
He adds in the 2022/2023 National Budget, the Economy Minister had allocated $1.9 million for the final 318 victims of the scam who had not been reimbursed.
He also questioned why are the funds not being released for payments.
The Party Leader says it sounds like another one of those budget gimmicks that are just for show with no actual funds being released.
Chaudhry says they have been fighting for justice for the poor victims of the Lagilagi Housing project since late 2018/2019.
He says they had exposed the scam in a letter to the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC) calling for an investigation into why low-income workers who had put their meagre savings towards the Lagilagi housing units did not get the homes they paid for and were being pushed around.
He further says following this, an inquiry by the Commission revealed a huge scam with some 655 victims defrauded of their savings.
Chaudhry adds some have since recovered their money leaving 318 victims still to be reimbursed, but even with the $1.9 million allocated for reimbursement in the recent National Budget, these families are being given the run around for their money.
The Party Leader is calling on the government to accept equal responsibility for not keeping a close tab on how taxpayer funds were being abused as the Lagilagi Housing scheme was a joint venture between the Fiji First government and the People’s Community Network.
He says the Government had put in $12 million towards the project.
Chaudhry says a 635-page investigation report which was never made public, revealed huge financial mismanagement including improper record keeping of finances, unauthorised alterations to receipts, unexplained transactions to staff personal accounts and so on.
He adds it also found units were allocated to police and army officers, teachers and other civil servants who did not qualify for the low-cost housing units.
He says they are still calling for justice for the final 318 families who are harassed for money owed to them.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Housing and Community Development has paid more than $2 million to 278 applicants who had applied for a refund of deposits paid to People's Community Network.
The Ministry has received a total of 643 applications and 278 applicants have been paid.
The Fijian Government committed $2.27 million in the 2021/2022 Revised National Budget and further allocated $1.9 million in the 2022/2023 National Budget to refund the remaining applicants.
We have sent questions to the Minister for Economy and Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in regards to the statement by FLP, and he is yet to respond.
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