Fiji’s economic troubles and the deteriorating state of government finances cannot be
fixed just by juggling the financial year as proposed by Finance Minister Khaiyum.
The problems associated with this ongoing syndrome have their roots deeply embedded in systemic corruption and a complete disregard for accountability and transparency in the financial affairs of the State.
The absence from the imposed 2013 Constitution of the requisite checks and balances and separation of powers provisions has laid the field clear for the ruling corrupt to do as they please without being held accountable.
It is conservatively estimated that corruption at all levels in government costs the tax payer a whopping $400-$500 million a year. This huge sum is lost through corrupt practices in the award of contracts for construction projects, for procurement of goods and services or the grant of special tax or duty concessions to cronies and collaborators.
A very common practice, engaged in through collusion between government officials and the contractor, is to approve large payments for false or fraudulent claims. This is quite prevalent in construction projects and, to a lesser extent, in supply contracts.
Another method used by corrupt politicians and their contractor cronies to skin the tax payer is to award contracts as per tender documents but later to submit pre-arranged claims for variations which are approved as a matter of course, thus, significantly exceeding the original contract sum.
Yet another practice is to simply substantially inflate the project cost funding for which is tied to a conditional loan, available under Fiji government guarantee, from the contractors domicile. Most of our road construction and upgrading projects are carried out under such arrangements with the lenders who select the contractors.
So stop making flimsy excuses about ‘Christmas-itis’ and other red-herrings. The real problem is corruption and an absolute lack of accountability. These have to be addressed first. Simply juggling the financial year around will make no difference.