It had to happen.
For well over a year now, ever since it was first revealed that the accountancy firm managed by Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum's aunt Nur Bano Ali was handling the salaries of senior government employees including those of the AG and PM, and the subsequent speculation that circulated about their supposedly astronomical salaries, it was only a matter of time before the also supposed nepotism and misdoings were hauled into the public arena.
This started a long time back with a succession of accusations crisscrossing the social media but with the recent post-elections release of the Auditor General's report there is more substance to go on.
The report has not yet been considered by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee but its Chairman-designate Dr Biman Prasad has already released a number of statements querying the integrity of the interim government's finances.
So far this has resulted in three developments:
First, the Fiji Sun reports that, according to "insiders", SODELPA has urged Dr Prasad to tone down his remarks and defer further comments until the appropriate time, that is, when the Accounts Committee meets. It is normally the right of the Opposition to appoint the Committee chairperson but the Government Whip has objected to the appointment, ostensibly because of Dr Prasad's prior judgments.
Secondly, Prof Wadan Narsey has criticised government procedures revealed in the Auditor-General's report and these have been widely circulated by the anti-Government social media..
Thirdly, aunt Nur's firm, Aliz Pacific, has responded with all guns blazing, criticising Biman, Wadan and the media that published their comments.
It has instructed its lawyers to investigate the issues raised and seek legal redress for slander and defamation. It will also inform in the Media Industry Development Authority of "unfair reporting" and "ask the Media, the Auditor General and persons such as Mr Narsey to immediately desist from making further attempts to malign and discredit our Firm and by this Statement they are put on notice."
Aliz Pacific's statement
In a paid statement (and I publish the statement in full because so far the firm has been judged with no opportunity to reply, and because I expect readers will wish to comment) they write:
"We write this statement to respond to the incorrect reporting by the Auditor General using inaccurate and incomplete information which subsequently led to certain false statements and mis-information made through certain media reports and public opinions by the following organizations and individuals:
- The Fiji Times on 7th November 2014 by Shalveen Chand – front page headline "revealed" in red ink and titled "how they were paid " - The Fiji Times on 15th November 2014 by Nasik Swami – article headed “AUDIT REPORT REVEALED - What Aliz got - $0.5 M PAYOUT” in a prominent banner on the front page - Fiji Village on 12th November 2014 by Vijay Narayan - “Consultancy contract to Aliz Pacific should be investigated - Auditor General” - FBC Online on 12th November by Pritika Pratap – “Tender Process not followed: Audit” - Auditor General for incorrect reporting, using incomplete and selective information in his Audit Report 2010 (Vol 4, Section 27, p5)
- Wadan Narsey on 6th November 2014 on his blog site – “Wadan Narsey on Fiji - for fairness and freedom” – article titled “The Bombshell Auditor General Reports for 2007 - 2013” We has on other occasions in various outlets such as Letters to the Editor (Fiji Times), Republika Magazine and of course on his blog site been making comments about our firm and our Managing Partner
"The above mentioned articles and reports in the various media are aimed at maligning and discrediting our office. These articles contain mis-information and are premised on false, selective and incomplete information. Responsible journalists and commentators would seek to verify information and to provide an accused party a right of response. We note that these articles have sensational headlines and captions to give them prominence to malign our firm.
"The Auditor General stated in his 2010 Report that:
“The audit also noted that the then RCDC Board (Rewa Cooperative Dairy Company Ltd) was informed by a representative of aliz pacific in a board meeting on 17th May 2010 that Government through the Ministry of Industry and Trade had appointed her consulting firm to implement the restructure of the company.” This is not correct and in fact the RCDC Board (our clients and the rightful appointing entity) at its meeting on 20th November 2009 had appointed aliz pacific as Lead Consultants to the re-structure.
"Mr Narsey has resorted to a personal attack on our Managing Partner, Dr Nur Bano Ali referring to her personal and indeed biological relationship to Mr Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum as the reason for alleged unprofessional conduct on her part. He makes allegations that our office was paid commissions, high fees, and awarded contracts by government without a tender process. These allegations of impropriety are false.
"Mr Narsey has also referred to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Biman Prasad, using him as the basis for authority and quoted him saying “it has become abundantly clear that there has been widespread abuse of public funds and blatant dis-regard of fundamental financial procedures (as well as) … pilferage, wastage and abuse of public funds”.
"We are disappointed to see Mr Narsey who purports to speak from a position of self-righteousness and as the self proclaimed, ”voice of reason and fairness” for Fiji resorting to such tactics. If Mr Narsey is disgruntled in the manner Government has awarded contracts then there is a rightful and proper legal avenue for challenging these decisions not by seeking to malign people through blog sites or the media."