In Rotuma earlier this week, Prime Minister Bainimarama denied he was receiving a salary in excess of a million dollars. He said his salary would be revealed after the registration of his political party.
We say that the salary of all Cabinet ministers should be public information at all times.
The issue of the Prime Minister’s and Attorney General’s salaries was first raised by the Fiji Labour Party in August 2010. A few months earlier, payment of Cabinet salaries had been removed from the Treasury and given to the Suva accounting firm of BDO (Aliz) managed by the Attorney General’s aunt, Nur Bano Ali. Since then, the PM’s salary along with that of the Attorney General has become a State secret.
FLP had then called on the regime to comment on reports that both of them had substantially hiked up their salaries. There was no response.
It is absolutely necessary, therefore, to establish the truth in this matter so that the people can be correctly informed. This can only be done if Mr Bainimarama discloses the records regarding his pay package going back to early 2010.
The Prime Minister must provide audited accounts of his salary and those of his Cabinet Ministers from April 2010 onwards, duly certified by the Auditor General and the Permanent Secretary for Finance
A complete disclosure is also necessary in the interests of transparency andaccountability. After all, there has been much rhetoric on this by the regime’s High Command.
In 2007 Commodore Bainimarama had declared that he, and all his Ministers (including the AG), would receive only ONE salary, irrespective of the number of portfolios they held.
This promise has not been kept. Our understanding is that the Prime Minister and the Attorney General who are holding multi-ministerial portfolios, are paid separate salaries for each portfolio they hold.
Furthermore, Executive Authority of Fiji Decree No.2 of 2009 states at Section 9 that:
“A Minister is entitled to remuneration and allowances that were applicable before the 10th day of April 2009, provided that the President may by Decree amend, vary or replace the remuneration or allowance payable to a Minister.”
We have not seen any Decree which has altered, amended or varied the above provision
Under the parliamentary system, salaries and allowances of PMs and Ministers were governed by determinations made by the Parliamentary Emoluments Commission. In 2006 it ranged from $115,000 plus State housing for the PM to $96,000 including housing allowance, for the Attorney General and other Ministers.
All public officials, including the Prime Minister and Ministers, must be paid through the Treasury, at rates approved by law and in a transparent manner.
The tax payer and the people of Fiji are entitled to know the truth about the Bainimarama Cabinet salaries.
Despite repeated calls by the FLP since 2010, for the PM and the AG to disclose their total pay package, the two have steadfastly refused to do so. Now the PM says his salary will be disclosed when his proposed political party is registered.
Why break the silence now? Is it because with the registration of the proposed Fiji First Party, they will have no choice but to finally make public their true incomes and assets?
We are reliably informed that in anticipation of this disclosure, Cabinet salary payments were reverted to the Treasury late last year. It won’t be surprising if they have been cutback in line with a figure more acceptable to the nation.
Reports are also circulating that family trusts are being established to overcome the requirements of the political parties’ decree vis a vis financial disclosures of political party officials, their spouses and children.
If these reports are true, it tantamounts to outright deceit and fraud on the people of Fiji. This is why the Prime Minister must come clean and provide audited accounts of his salary from 2010 onwards when it went secret.
The regime has also never explained nor denied the fact that Cabinet salaries were paid secretly by a private accounting firm with close connections to the AG – in blatant breach of the requirements governing transparency and accountability in the public service.