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“Bainimarama Government and MWH: coming to their senses?” (24 Sep 2016)


“Bainimarama Government and MWH: coming to their senses?” (24 Sep 2016)

The Fiji media has reported that the Bainimarama Government has sent 2 senior expatriate (NZ) MWH employees packing out of the country.  MWH reported that they had a dispute with the Government over the non-payment of invoices.

Is this an indication that the Bainimarama  Government (or is it the Fiji Roads Authority) has finally come to their senses about the spending of the massive amounts allocated to roads infrastructure over the last five years, far more than could be efficiently expended?

While PWD used to get about F$40 million a years, MWH and FRA received more than F$500 million per year over the last four years.  There are no public accounts available as to how these funds were expended, and it is not even clear whether the Auditor General’s Office was able to audit their detailed expenditures.

Of course, when the Bainimarama Government began their expenditure splurge, many companies were rubbing their hands with glee at having to deal with Ministers of Finance with little technical expertise (Bainimarama and Khaiyum) made worse because of the forced retirement of many senior experienced civil servants, with the “selective” application of the 55 year retirement rule (not applied to themselves, of course).  Many companies came from NZ, possibly encouraged by the former Fiji citizens who returned to Fiji to support the Bainimarama coup and Government, and quickly filled enormously powerful positions over tax payers funds (such as Permanent Secretaries and heads of public enterprises). Their roles are yet to be clarified.

I have raised these issues previously in Letters to the Editor, most not printed by the media, who failed their “watchdog on government” role, because of the intimidation and censorship they have faced over the last five years.

The chickens are coming home to roost. The sums involved were enormous (more than F$2 billion over four years), and even if 10% were expended “un-necessarily, one is looking at the wastage of F$200 million- about the cost of the National Bank of Fiji disaster under Rabuka’s SVT government.

Listen to this interview with ABC Pacific Beat which merely scratches at the surface:

ABC Pacific Beat 24 Sep. 2016 (MWH expatriates sent packing)

Postscript 1

A Fiji Times new item of 26 Sep. 2016 (by Charlene Lanyon) reported that FRA CEO  (John Hutchinson) stated (in italics):

“FRA has already paid MWH approximately $6 million for 2016 already. MWH is claiming payment of almost $20m for its services so far in 2016 and FRA required MWH to provide proper substantiation for this very large claim before payment could be made…. The dispute has arisen because MWH has refused to provide that substantiation.”

“FRA, however, had legitimate concerns about the conduct of those two employees in that one had issued threats to an employee of FRA about consequences to FRA if MWH’s demand for payment had not been met while the other had unlawfully written to third parties disclosing details of the dispute that were commercially in confidence,”

“Fijians and those charged with the running of MWH in New Zealand and globally should know that there will be no let-up in FRA’s pursuit for a just outcome from MWH and for all Fijians.”

The above indicates that that finally, an expatriate CEO is courageous enough to fight to safeguard the interests of Fiji taxpayers, who should give him all support.  The sums quoted also indicate how much the NZ based company MWH has been making annually from Fiji taxpayers- probably in excess of $30 million annually. No wonder, it could make a “donation” of one million dollars to Bainimarama’s Cyclone Relief Fund!

Economics students at USP, FNU and FU should serious consider doing a PhD (several) on the Bainimarama/Khaiyum Government’s massive splash of $2 billion on Fiji’s road infrastructure, in the brief spell of four years.

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