DEPOSED FIJI PRIME MINISTER CHAUDHRY UNDER SCRUTINY OVER "PRIVATE"

TAIWAN FUND

By Margaret Wise

SUVA, Fiji Islands (November 30, 2000 - The Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online) - A special audit report says deposed Fiji Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry intended to illegally operate as a private fund F$ 150,000 (US$ 66,030) donated by the government of Taiwan.

And the report has recommended that Mr. Chaudhry and senior accountant Nitya Nand be disciplined "for blatantly disregarding legislation and procedures" laid down for the use of such money.

The funds, paid in three installments, were made available after the former Prime Minister's private secretary, his son Rajendra, asked the Taiwan Mission in Fiji to provide US$ 75,000.

The audit noted that the donor was reluctant to provide details on the financial assistance, "casting some doubt over the objectives of the cash grant."

The Taiwan Head of Mission, Chi-Kun Ning, had authorized the release of the funds from the Mission's New York bank account, it said.

According to the report, Mr. Ning told the auditors that the money was a cash grant from "government to government."

The report said Mr. Chaudhry had told the local media the fund was private money as it had been given by a private donor.

According to the audit, the method by which the account was opened and operated contravened all provisions regarding the management of special projects accounts.

It said Mr. Chaudhry Jr.'s request for financial assistance was done in his capacity as a civil servant, with the use of the PM's Office letterhead and an official file reference.

It said the senior accountant and the deposed PM had given conflicting statements about who kept records of the account.

"There was an intention to operate the account privately and illegally. The deposed Prime Minister, who was also Finance Minister, failed to comply with requirements. He intended to operate the account outside the government accounting system for reasons best known to him," the audit said.

In an editorial comment The Fiji Times said:

"For many who voted for a change in government and put their support behind the coalition, the latest revelations will be received with shock.

"The very reason many people voted for the coalition was to put to an end the corruption, greed and rot which had infiltrated the system of previous administrations.

"Mr. Chaudhry has a duty to his constituents, colleagues and the people of Fiji to explain his actions.

"This country has had enough of politicians who say one thing in public and do the opposite in private."

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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