Walesi was brought in to control the media distribution network - Kamikamica

Walesi was brought in to control the media distribution network - Kamikamica

By Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 05/04/2023
[Photo: Parliament of the Republic of Fiji]

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Communications, Manoa Kamikamica says it is clear the FijiFirst Government wanted to also control the distribution network of all the media broadcasters by bringing in the Walesi network – which was a total and absolute abuse of power and media control.

While speaking in parliament, Kamikamica says there was a desire to continue to control the media, and it seems the Media Industry Development Act in place was not enough for the previous government.

He says praise God, the coalition government is getting rid of the Act. Kamikamica says to explain what Walesi is, the best description so far was given by a celebrated lawyer, Richard Naidu who said on 18th December 2021 and he quoted in part with some of Kamikamica’s additions “Imagine you own a bus. You’ve bought your buses. You’ve got your bus route licenses. Your business is running well.

You have some competition with other bus companies but that is OK because that’s business right? All of sudden the Government turns up on your route with shiny new buses and no one is quite sure what the Government is doing.

But the Government seems to be saying “Our buses are for all the people and you need to start using the Government buses. You have no choice and you might lose your license if you don't agree.

The poor bus operators ask what about our buses, and the answer from the Government is that is not our problem. The bus operators then ask, how are we going to pay for these new buses, The Government says let me talk to FCCC’’ other words, the Government has no idea, how they were going to charge for Walesi.”

The Deputy Prime Minister also says as usual and true to form, when the International Telecommunications Union produced a report on digital TV, it made 2 recommendations very clearly - the need to have a business case to justify the investment that the Government was making and to ensure there was consultation with all stakeholders.

Kamikamica says no business case was ever tabled in Cabinet and neither was there proper consultation on Walesi with stakeholders.

The Deputy PM says he has been told that the broadcast stakeholders were basically forced onto Walesi or they ran the risk of losing their licenses.

He says from the very beginning, the Walesi was set up all wrong.

Kamikamica says the FijiFirst Government, and its Economic Manager, decided to spend money with no business case.

He says imagine if you or I were a CFO or Finance Manager of a company who went to its board to set up a business project with no idea what the total costs of your project were and how you would recover the money you were going to spend, we would be laughed out of the boardroom, or we would be fired.

Kamikamica says with the support of the silent 26, they allowed Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, the former Minister for Everything including Communications to spend $125 million with no business case and no proper consultation.

He says whilst he has put a hold on the continued migration of the radio operators to Walesi, the fact that the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission is still trying to work out pricing for the television and radio stations on how they will be charged for Walesi proves his point on the height of economic mismanagement.

Kamikamica says when you invest, and you don’t know how to recover the cost of your investment which now equates to $125 million, is a major concern.

He also says in terms of consultation, it was limited and virtually non-existent - practically in true FijiFirst Government fashion - my way or the highway.

The Board of Walesi is in the process of being changed.

Kamikamica says he has discussed this with the current Chairman, Robert Khan who has graciously offered to work with the new Board and its Chairman to ensure a smooth handover and transition.

He says the new Board will be tasked to finding a way out of the financial mess created by the previous Government and they will have the full support of the Ministry of Communications.

He adds the FijiFirst Government has left a litany of messes that this Government will have to fix whilst trying to run a normal business as well.

$125 million of taxpayers money wasted on Walesi - Kamikamica

By Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 05/04/2023
[Photo: Walesi - Facebook]

The story of Walesi is a classic example of government overreach, excessive control, wastage and mismanagement – and because of government overreach - $125 million of taxpayers money is wasted.

Those are the words of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Communications, Manoa Kamikamica in his ministerial statement on Walesi as he says it doesn’t stop there because there could be potential abuse of office and even possibly misleading parliament.

Kamikamica says he would like to report to the House that the total amount spent on Walesi as at 10th March 2023 and they are still discovering other payments, is $125,571,388.87 and counting.

He says out of the $125 million spent so far, about $42.48 million came from the Telecommunications Development Trust Fund (a Trust funded by telecommunication service providers) and $83 million came through budgetary channels.

Kamikamica says it is important because it shows a deeper concern on how money was being spent on and how it was being disclosed in parliament.

He gave an example - as per the information provided by the Ministry in 2016 to 2017, there was $23.7 million spent from the Trust Account but in the Budget for 2016 to 2017, there is only a disclosure of $2 million.

Kamikamica asks what does this mean.

He says this suggests that the FijiFirst Government did not disclose to the people of Fiji how much it was truly spending on Walesi out of the Trust Account and can be deemed as misleading the people of Fiji in his view.

The Deputy Prime Minister says he agrees that these are very serious allegations and the government is not taking it lightly.

Kamikamica says with Cabinet approval, an investigation is being undertaken into this excessive use of funds.

It will establish how the funds were spent, whether due process was followed in terms of a tender process, the selection of vendors and how procurement was made.

Kamikamica will report back to parliament once this audit investigation is carried out.

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