Now that the Fiji Court of Appeal has thrown out the appeal by Aliz Pacific and Nur Bano against the Auditor General for questioning the awarding of a $500,000 contract to the company, the case must not end there. The scam must be investigated and the culprits punished.
The case involves a government consultancy contract awarded to the Suva
accounting firm of Aliz Pacific (formerly BDO) owned by Dr. Nur Bano,
to carry out a restructuring of Rewa Dairy Cooperative Co. Ltd without tenders being called. The contract was for $500,000 with an additional $62,500 paid in VAT.
The contract was given to BDO by the Ministry for Commerce and Trade in
July 2010 at the time Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was Minister for Commerce.
Nur Bano is a close relative (Aunt) of the Minister.
The Ministry of Commerce had clearly breached government’s tender process
by not calling for tenders, as procurement regulations required tenders to be
called for all services costing above $30,000.
When the Auditor General’s office (2010 report) queried the breach as it reflected on the transparency of the process, it was informed in a letter from the Ministry that there was no need for tenders to be called as Cabinet had already identified the consultant for the restructuring process.
This appears to be a clear case of nepotism and abuse of office by the Minister at the time and must be investigated. Labour had issued a statement in August 2010 questioning the award of the contract to BDO without tenders being called, particularly when Dr. Bano was a close relative of the Minister.
We had also questioned the contract sum of $500,000 as too exorbitant considering the nature of the contract and the size of the company. ( http://www.flp.org.fj/awarding-of-%c2%bdm-rewa-dairy-contract-questionable).
The Appeals Bench agreed with the High Court that the Auditor General was acting in “pursuance of the statutory duties entrusted to him” in questioning the award of the tender to Nur Bano’s firm and found that the Auditor General’s conduct, therefore, could not be classified “malicious”, as claimed by Ms Bano.
“Malice cannot be imputed,” the Judges said and dismissed the case, with court costs of $5000 against Aliz Pacific.
People may recall that it was Nur Bano’s accounting firm of BDO that handled the secret salary payments of interim PM Voreqe Bainimarama and his Attorney General Sayed-Khaiyum between 2010 and 2013. They were reportedly paid to the tune of $1million each per annum.
This scam was revealed in the Auditor General’s 2014 report and has not been since resolved despite repeated requests from the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee for acquittals relating to the payments.
Here again, the contract to handle the secret salary payments was given without tenders being invited.
The involvement of Dr Bano’s firm in these scandalous transactions require a thorough investigation along with Minister Sayed-Khaiyum’s role therein.
We urge the Opposition parties in parliament to demand an independent (judicial) probe into these scandalous cases.