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 EDITORIAL COMMENT Fiji Times Suva, Fiji Islands October 20, 1999


DESPITE all the platitudes, all the reassurances by government ministers it is now plain that something is seriously wrong with the nation's Y2K compliance program.

The latest revelation shows that reports carried repeatedly by this newspaper that life support systems in our major hospitals are in danger of failure because the Y2K compliance project has been interrupted were correct in every detail.

Assurances given by the Government and repeated parrot-fashion by other media organizations that all is well can now be discounted.

For if ministers have misled the people on this issue, it's a safe bet that they have done so on others.

The cost to the Government of dumping this contract may well be huge.

The VAT unit, the tax information system, the water billing system are all at very high risk.

Now we learn that even the hospitals are not Y2K safe.

What else is hidden? And, more importantly, why?

When the Y2K project was approved in February this year the plan was signed by a range of very senior government personnel including the Auditor-General.

However, as the project approached a conclusion the prime minister himself intervened to put everything on hold.

He said it had used up $24 million of public money (though only $3.3 million was allocated in the 1999 budget) and that the proper procedures were not followed.

He then awarded the contract to a team of USP academics.

Whether the correct procedures were followed in the awarding of this contract is now probably irrelevant as it is highly unlikely that the new team has sufficient time to evaluate and complete the job.

The Government, and in particular the prime minister, should now implement its election pledge on transparency.

It should explain to the people exactly what is happening and why.

It's no longer acceptable to rely on vague promises that everything is all right and there's nothing to worry about.

For it is now very clear that there is plenty to worry about.

So far Fiji has been fed a diet of half-truths, evasions and downright lies on this particular subject while its citizens are left to ponder the true state of affairs and the motivation behind it.

There is grave concern at home and abroad over this and nothing short of full disclosure will dispel it.

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

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