FIJI MINISTER RATU FINAU MARA COULD BE RETURNED TO CABINET

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FIJI’S RATU FINAU MARA COULD BE RETURNED TO CABINET

SUVA, Fiji (December 17, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Former Fijian Affairs Minister Ratu Finau Mara is likely to re-join the Cabinet as early as this weekend.

The breakthrough came Tuesday night following a new twist in the legislature audit controversy.

Auditor General Michael Jacobs called incorrect a Fiji Sunday Times story claiming that an Auditor General's report named some members of Parliament as having been paid accommodation and travel allowances to which they were not entitled, The Daily Post reports.

Ratu Finau was one of those named in the report.

As a result of the publicity, Ratu Finau resigned Monday as Minister for Fijian Affairs and ALTA, the Agricultural Landlord and Tenants Act. Prime Minister Rabuka Tuesday wrote to Ratu Finau accepting his resignation.

When contacted for comment by The Daily Post Tuesday night, Ratu Finau said the clarification appeared to have come too late. However, he said he was glad something was being done.

Earlier, Radio Fiji reported Opposition Leader Jai Ram Reddy saying he believed the Auditor General had lost control over his staff. He alleged the existence of a clandestine operation where audit reports are authorized, handed over to a political party, and then leaked to the media.

Meanwhile, Fiji Labour Party parliamentary leader Mahendra Chaudhry has written to Prime Minister Rabuka calling for an immediate investigation into the allegations of improper and irregular travel and accommodation claims by some members of Parliament. The irregularities are contained in an audit working paper leaked to a newspaper from the Auditor General's Office. It showed that 15 MPs claimed $117,600 in accommodation and travel allowances to which they were not entitled.

In his letter to Rabuka, Chaudhry said the revelation had proved to be quite embarrassing and had severely tarnished the reputation of Parliament. He suggested the inquiry into their authenticity be headed by a person of repute in whom all political parties had confidence.

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