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By Frederica Elbourne

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Mar. 16) - Native Land Trust Board executives booked an all-expenses paid trip to the United States weeks before the board approved a $15 million bid by an overseas-based computer company.

The trip is paid for by the successful bidder.

NLTB Public Relations officer Nimilote Naivalumaira said yesterday the agency is fully aware of the sum associated with the bid by Tui Consulting amidst media reports based on board papers that the figure was in excess of $21 million.

He said plans by the American-based company to fund an all-expenses paid trip for NLTB representatives to view the work of the company were known to them weeks ahead of the Friday announcement.

"We were well prepared before the board meeting on Friday but we couldn’t let the media in because everything after the meeting was late. We knew the sum and the visa approval was ready weeks before," Mr Naivalumaira said.

However, NLTB General Manager Kalivati Bakani said last Thursday that the price was still being negotiated and he would send a press release giving full details. 

Yesterday, Mr Naivalumaira said the same. However, no press release was received.

He said Mr Bakani left the country on Sunday and had no idea of his date of return.

Earlier last week, Mr Bakani said the board was still negotiating the price of the contract awarded to Fiji-born entrepreneur Ballu Khan who founded Tui Consulting. He rejected reports by the FijiSUN that the initial bid by Tui Consulting was an estimated $21 million. But Mr Naivalumaira said the figure was arrived at after Tui Consulting agreed to reduce the price by $6 million.

Mr Khan distanced himself from claims that he owned the company.

"You’ll be pleasantly surprised," Mr Khan had said.

Local bidders included Datec Fiji Limited, Information Technology services and Software Factory Limited.

March 16, 2004



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