The people of Fiji are grateful to the United Nations and the diplomatic community for its $82 million flash appeal to the international community for disaster relief work in Fiji.
According to the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator Osnat Lubrani (FT 5/3/16) the 90-day appeal was being put together under the leadership of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and various Fiji Government ministries.
This is where the concern is. While the UN appeal in itself is welcome, Ms Lubrani has not spelt out the details of how the process will work. There is a vague statement “… and so the funds will go through the different humanitarian agencies, but in a sense that partnership with the government is integrated into that”.
This is very vague and does not clarify whether the funds collected will actually be kept in a separate account and administered jointly by representatives of major donors, the UN, NGOs and the National Disaster Management Office. This is an absolute must to ensure accountability and transparency in the disbursement of the donated funds. There should also be a requirement that a full report on the use of the funds and audited accounts be presented to parliament.
Our concern is that the Bainimarama Government should not be entrusted with any internationally collected funds because of its dismal record in regards to accountability and transparency in the handling of public funds.
The United Nations and donor nations need to be aware that under Bainimarama’s leadership there has been an absolute lack of accountability on public moneys.
Specifically, despite repeated calls the Prime Minister has not yet provided any report or audited accounts of the Prime Minister’s Disaster Appeal Funds of 2009 and 2012 when millions were collected from the Fiji public and donors abroad. .
There are allegations that the Fund has been abused, and more specifically, that moneys from it were used for the Fiji First vote buying campaign.
Secondly, there have been reports of race-based discrimination, as well as favouritism, in providing assistance.
Millions of dollars’ worth of cyclone relief in cash and kind have been received to date from locals as well as donor nations. This must be accounted for and reported on with audited accounts published for the information of the donors and the general public.