Of the $2 million allocated to upgrade rural Fijian schools under the government’s affirmative action programme, half was lost through scams and misuse, the Auditor General reports.
The project known as the Centre of Excellence scheme was terminated because of the abuse, according to a report in the Fiji Sun. Moneys used went into unauthorised advance payments for building materials, the purchase of rugby jerseys for a team, unaudited accounts, unauthorised payments and excessive payments for casual labour, the AG found.
He recommends that the principal of the Naitasiri Provincial High School be investigated for wrongfully authorising LPOs and payments. The AG found that of money issued in 2002:
• $215,000 was paid in advance to HP Kasabia
• $26, 870 was used to buy school uniforms that were not approved under the scheme
• $12,180 was used to buy jerseys for a rugby team and the chiefs
Money had in effect been granted under the scheme to upgrade staff quarters $135,00o), classroom blocks and a science lab ($65,000) a vocational centre ($20,000) toilets ($30,000), improvement of water supply $10,000 and $15,000 for electrical wiring and a switchboard.
The report found that the Naitasiri High School is not popular with the community because of its poor standards and the the school was selected for the scheme despite the fact that its land lease had expired.
Workers employed in the building projects were all from the chief’s mataqali and that the contract for the building works went to Baba Forests, a company owned by SDL national secretary, Jale Baba.
There is no record of payments to Baba Forests. The work was to have been completed by November 2003, but is still not finished and building materials were supplied by Kasabias to Baba Forests as late as 15 January 2004.
Under the agreement, the contractor faced a penalty of $150 a day if the project was not completed on time but there is no record of any such payments.
Audit found unused building materials ordered on the advice of Baba Forests stored in temporary sheds at the school – v-drains, toilet cisterns, cartons of paint, timber, roofing iron, guttering and PSV pipes.
The Auditor General’s findings clearly support FLP claims that only those closely connected to the SDL Party and the elite of Fijian society are benefiting from the SDL government’s affirmative action programmes.
The ordinary Fijians for whose benefit the programme is supposedly designed, are getting value from it.