FIJI EMBASSY IN PORT MORESBY UNDER SCRUTINY FOR CORRUPTION

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 7, 1999 – Fiji Village News)---Allegations of corruption have surfaced at Fiji's mission in Papua New Guinea which include abuse of office, misuse of funds and diplomatic powers and dishonest claims, among a host of other alleged illicit activities.

A former FM96 journalist now living in PNG sent Fiji Village News evidence of her claims, which included the residential telephone bill of the Charge d’Affaires ran into more than 29,000 kina (US$ 9,911).

(NOTE: K 2.926 = US$ 1 on September 7, 1999)

The total telephone bill for the 12 months from 1997 to 1998 totaled 28,172 kina.

The bills came from Charge d’Affaires Maria Matavewa's residential phone. Most of the calls were made to Australia, with one particular call lasting nearly an hour and costing taxpayers 146 kina.

It has yet to be established whether these were private or business calls. The bills were paid with the authorization by the then High Commissioner, Tomu Tuiloma.

In another case, it is alleged that Mrs. Matavewa, with approval from Tuiloma, employed her husband as the High Commissioner's driver. But according to the Fiji Village News (FVN) correspondent in PNG, Mr. Matavewa was mostly seen driving his wife around instead of the head of the mission.

A copy of his appointment letter was obtained by FVN). In one incident Mr. Matavewa claimed more than 900 kina in overtime, saying that he was on standby for former Foreign Affairs Minister Berenado Vunibobo, while in PNG for a trade meeting. However, Vunibobo's trip was fully paid for, including the service of a driver, by the PNG government.

The payment of this overtime was authorized by his wife, Maria Matavewa. Proof of this was also attached to the claims according to our correspondent.

Questions are being asked as to why the Charge d’Affaires children are driving around Port Moresby in the Ambassador's car when they have their own family vehicle. The ambassador's car is used to pick up Matavewa's children from school.

Two years ago, a cabinet minister, Jo Nacola, had to resign from cabinet after his son crashed a government vehicle.

In another interesting case, Mrs. Matavewa made a claim of more than 800 kina for a farewell function for a mission staff member, but the money was never used for this purpose. The invitees, staff and mainly Fijian Nationals in PNG, were instead asked to bring a plate each to farewell the High Commissioner's house girl.

Fiji's head of mission in PNG, Sekove Naiqiolevu, is away in Belgrade and could not be reached for a comment.

For additional reports from Fiji Village News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Fiji Village News).

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