It is this aspect that caused me the greatest concern and triggered my decision to resign from my role as MFP. As will be self-evident this issue has the potential of exposing FNU to a $6m liability which [Ganesh] Chand and [Narendra] Prasad misled the Council, the Audit Committee, the Financial Resources Committee, FNU’s external auditors and the officials of the EU. This liability has its genesis in the Kiri EU saga and the following is just a snapshot so FICAC can get the gist of this matter.
Between 2006 and 2008 the EU entered into a donor contract with the Government of Kiribati for training and infrastructure. EU also entered into a bilateral contract with then Fiji School of Medicine (FSM), under which FSM was to provide training and supervise the infrastructure projects. The total funding granted by EU for the whole project was some EU$7.28m (F$18m).
The project was completed in 2010 and in the same year the FSM merged with the newly formed FNU. By virtue of s45 of the FNU Decree 2010 FNU was deemed to have taken over the FSM’s bilateral contract with EU and hence liable under the contract for any ineligible expenditure expended from the donor monies.
During early 2013 EU officials in Fiji expressed concerns to Chand/Prasad regarding the ineligible expenditure of some EU$5.8m (F$14m), based on EU auditors report. This amount was later reduced by EU$3.3m after the Kiribati Government engaged its own engineers which certified that the donor funding for infrastructure was properly spent on the buildings, the existence of which they also verified.
This now exposes FNU to the current ineligible expenditure of EU$2.5 (F$6m) for which EU has been seeking credible documentation since 2013. I enclose the chronology of events [ANNEXURE J] which Chand/Prasad gave to the Audit Committee when it “grilled” them about the saga at its 12/8/14 meeting. The Audit Committee had asked Chand and Prasad to resolve the saga and convene an urgent meeting for further deliberation. Both men have failed to do so. At this juncture I again refer FICAC to my submissions of 9/9/14 (Annexure C). That document gives cogent evidence regarding my continuing efforts to get the assistance of Prasad and Anand to resolve the matter, to no avail. Despite knowing the urgency attaching to this case, Prasad went overseas (Solomon Islands) without informing me. He appointed Anand acting Director Finance in his absence. When I asked Anand to provide me documents so that we could provide credible information to EU, this was simply ignored. Upon Prasad’s return Anand complained that I was dragging the chain and hindering the progress to resolve the saga.
Prior to my appointment Anand had major involvement with the Kiri EU saga and had even gone to Kiribati to obtain documents. He also liaised with local auditors in Fiji who had performed certain audits of the Kiri EU project. Despite his extensive involvement and knowledge, he refused to assist me and was overtly evasive when I sought documents about the project that were in his control or possession. One Sanjesh Lal who was initially the Kiri EU Project Accountant at the FSM during 2010 to 2013 also had extensive knowledge of various documentation, but deliberately barred by Chand/Prasad to assist me about the missing documentation pertaining to the ineligible expenditure.
Prasad and Chand have deliberately misled the Audit Committee and the Financial Resources Committee about the severity of the Kiri EU saga and the potential $6m liability to hide their own fraud, incompetence or financial governance obligations. They have failed to inform FNU’s external auditors about this potential liability so that a provision for this amount could have been created in FNU’s 2013 annual financial statements; in the event that the EU ultimately decides to recoup this amount from FNU in terms of the original contract, then the amount is redeemed from the provision and not from FNU’s operational funding.
Alternatively, the amount should have been disclosed in the financials by way of a note as a contingent liability. This will comply with the true and fair view of financial reporting to the FNU’s stakeholders as mandated by the relevant Accounting Standards and the financial reporting laws of Fiji. Either way, Chand and Prasad ought to have made full and frank disclosures to the Audit Committee, the Financial Resources Committee and the external auditors. They have deliberately failed to do so.
Apart from FNU’s CEO (s30 (2) FNU Decree), Chand is also its Principal Accounting Officer (s36 (2) FNU Decree). In addition, he is an official member of the FNU Council (s13 of FNU Decree). Section 22 of the FNU Decree imposes a personal obligation on him to perform his duties honestly and in the best interests of the FNU. As FNU’s CEO he must bear the ultimate accountability and responsibility of the Kiri EU scam. Both he and Prasad were active participants in the saga.
Based on the evidence submitted so far, it is incomprehensible that Mr Chand has acted honestly and in FNU’s best interest. The contrary is the case. As the credit card situation shows (see 2.1 above) he and Prasad have abused FNU funds for their own personal gain and have attempted to write off the amounts they owe FNU.
I therefore claim that both men have abused their office and that is a further violation of s139 of the Crimes Decree. Their acts described above is yet again arbitrary which is prejudicial to the rights of FNU in several ways. First, the delaying tactics of Prasad and Chand regarding the Kiri EU saga since 2012 is itself prejudicial in that many of the staff involved have left FNU and the memories of the remaining staff have faded during the time. Then, both men appear to have spent FNU funds unnecessarily in their concerted effort to avoid any liability to FNU to simply protect their impropriety.
FICAC will note from the evidence that Chand/Prasad sought legal opinion from Sherani Lawyers how to avoid the liability. However, the trio were advised that FNU was liable. This was a sheer waste of FNU funds or use of funds for an improper purpose. As already mentioned, under s45 of the FNU Decree FNU was always liable once the FSM merged with it. The Decree clearly states so in lay man’s term. Prasad’s inability to read such a simple statutory provision once again raises serious questions about his competence. FICAC should also note that FNU has its own in house lawyer who could have provided the opinion to the duo.
Thirdly, FNU’s reputation has been seriously damaged by the actions of Chand, Prasad and their cronies. EU may not provide any future donor finding to FNU in light of the Kiri EU saga. This will severely prejudice FNU’s stakeholders, including its current and future students and its bilateral relationship with other Pacific nations or their universities.
Finally, the conduct of Chand and Prasad preventing me to expose their wrongdoing tells its own compelling tale. Both men accuse me of shirking from my responsibility in not resolving the saga, yet refuse to provide me with all the information and documentation that I have been seeking. For example, on 5/9/14 [ANNEXURE K] I emailed Prasad seeking various information that appeared on the chronology that he provided to the Audit Committee. He has refused to provide any of the information I sought, nor provides any cogent reasons for his refusal. This is as odds with his assurance that he gave to the Audit Committee at its 12/8/14 meeting that he and his team (me included) were working tirelessly to resolve the saga.
Referral to the Office of the Prime Minister
I have been advised by some of the employees of FNU that in the past they complained about some of the matters that I have raised in this complaint. However FICAC refused to act and Chand and Prasad later victimised the staff after a FICAC employee revealed their identity to Chand. Whilst I have no evidence to back this up, I am concerned that given Chand’s political clout he has the ability to derail any corruption complaint against him, Prasad, Anand and FNU Council members implicated in this complaint.
It is for this reason I have taken the step in providing a copy of this complaint to the Office of the Prime Minister so that it is accorded proper, genuine and realistic investigation and prosecutorial consideration. The public interest and rule of law demand no less.
I therefore request my complaint be investigated urgently. Please note that my last day as an employee at FNU is 20/11/14 after which I intend to return to Australia. It is therefore in everyone’s interest that FICAC act with all due diligence and promptitude in resolving all the matters raised in this complaint.
Copies of all the relevant documents referred to in the complaint are enclosed. Should FICAC require any further documents or information, please let me know.
ANDREW M SINGH
Copy to: Josaia Vorege Bainimarama, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, 4th Floor, Government Buildings, Suva.