QARASE SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET REQUESTS QUESTIONED

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 15) - Since coming to power, the Qarase Government in Fiji has broken its annual budgets by a total of FJD$271.46 million (US$161.3 million), opposition lawmakers say.

Since 2001, the Fiji government presented 11 supplementary appropriation requests – funding above the allocated annual budget.

Questions were raised in the Lower House by Opposition members on whether our Ministry of Finance officials were actually "awake" to ensure the nation goes through one budget year without asking for supplementary appropriation.

The comments came after Attorney-General Qoriniasi Bale presented a supplementary appropriation Bill of FJD$18.6m (US$11m) for 2005.

In 2001, the Government asked for two supplementary appropriations -- one for $49.85m (US$29.6m) and another for FJD$1.43m (US$772,720).

Three supplementary appropriation Bills were presented in 2002 -- one for FJD$17.7m, another FJD$28.08m and the third $21.9m (US$13m).

And in 2003, two supplementary appropriations were asked for -- $30.1m and $45m (US$17.8 m and US$26.7m).

Last year, the Government presented three supplementary appropriation Bills -- the first $10.2m (US$6m), the second $38.9m (US$23.1m) and the third $8.1m (US$4.8m).

"These requests from the Government year in, year out arise out of poor planning, poor financial discipline, overspending and a general laxity and shoddiness in managing public funds," Labour senator Doctor Atu Emberson-Bain told the Senate yesterday.

"We all know this. Government knows this.

And yet it does very little about it," she said. "The problems have reached chronic proportions.

"Here we are barely half way through another budget cycle and certain ministries and departments have blown their budget to a tune of $18.6m (US$11m).

"In October last year, it was just three culprits (health, education and the military).

This time, we have four offenders, three of them new."

Finance deputy secretary (budget) Paula Uluinaceva said Emberson-Bain's comment was a political statement that was far from the truth, and reflected a serious lack of understanding on how, why and when the executive arm of Government had to make certain resource allocation decisions.

"Governments all over the world do this, even much more developed countries with more sophisticated capacities," Uluinaceva said.

But Emberson-Bain said accountability and disciplinary procedures still were wanting.

June 16, 2005

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