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Fund raising money from lottery unaccounted for

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 11, 2011) - The Fiji Rugby Union board and executive members have been directed to resign to make way for a new administration after serious discrepancies were revealed in the management by the Fiji Commerce Commission.

Sports Minister, Filipe Bole said the Government would give $3 million [US$1.62 million] to help the Flying Fijians team prepare for the International Rugby Board World Cup in New Zealand, but under a new administration.

Mr Bole made the announcement at a press conference at the Fiji Commerce Commission office in Suva yesterday where commission chairman Doctor Mahendra Reddy revealed the findings of its investigations into the FRU Lottery case.

Dr Reddy said the investigation showed that from a total of 100,000 tickets printed, only 47,591 tickets were accounted for leaving 52,409 unaccounted for.

He said there were also cases where funds raised from the sale of the lottery tickets were for other purposes which were not part of the lottery permit.

Dr Reddy said there were funds missing from the lottery account which amounted to a criminal offence.

He said out of the total receipts based on tickets sold there should have been $350,005 [US$189,000] in the lottery account but the balance shown in the bank statement was only $104,985.26 which meant that $155,743.22 was unaccounted for.

Dr Reddy said their investigations also showed that funds raised from lottery ticket sales were used to fund a senior FRU Lottery director's trip to the Hong Kong 7s last year.

He said FRU was given time to respond to the allegations and make the recommended changes but it did not happen and so now the Commerce Commission would seek court intervention to handle the case.

Mr Bole said the report findings showed that the lottery organised by FRU had no integrity and had destroyed the credibility of its administration.

"We simply cannot overlook issues and allegations of fraud, mismanagement, deceptive conduct and criminal liability because we, Fijians love rugby and support our Fijian team in the upcoming IRB World Cup," he said.

Mr Bole said the Government had not allocated any funds to FRU in the 2011 budget because of its concern at the mismanagement by the current FRU administration.

He said in his capacity as the Sports Minister, he wrote to IRB, informing them of Government's reservations of the current administration and requested them to help in providing personnel to new local administrators to manage FRU based on a transparent and professional management team. A copy of the Fiji Commerce Commission investigation report has been sent to the IRB.

Meanwhile, FRU chairman Bill Gavoka said the board was elected by the Council of Rugby and they are the only ones who can dismiss them.

"There is an AGM in April where elections will be held and new administrators can be elected legally then, if members of the council so wish. The Government had indicated to us in writing that while they support Fiji's participation at the World Cup, they could not provide financial assistance towards the preparation of the team. Where did this $3 million being dangled before us come from?"

On the recommendation of the commission which include prosecution of FRU officials Mr Gavoka said, "Oddly enough, we find that as progress as initially they were issuing directives as if they were judge and jury. We had been reminding them that they did not have the powers they claimed to have. They must have obtained the services of a good lawyer. We look forward to meeting them in court."

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