Archives January 2021

Statement from the Returning Officer of the FBFSEU Election

Statement from the Returning Officer of the FBFSEU Election

15 January 2021

I, Raajan Jattan, as Returning Officer of the FBFSEU Election for National Secretary would like to advise all members of the Union that the following will be the election timeline for the position of National Secretary:

    • Polling to commence on 25 January 2021 for two (2) weeks.
    • Polling closes on 5 February 2021.
    • Counting to resume at the Fijian Elections Office in the presence of scrutineers from 8 February 2021 to 9 February 2021.
    • Election Results to be announced following the conclusion of the count on 10 February 2021.

The following will be the candidates for the National Secretary Election:

1. Mr Aunendra Singh
2. Mr Jovesa Matanatoto Seru

For further information, please feel free to contact the Returning Officer, Raajan Jattan, on phone 8961238 and email raajan.jattan@feo.org.fj or alternatively your union representative at your respective employer.

-Ends-

 

Statement by the Registrar

Statement by the Registrar of Political Parties
Mr Mohammed Saneem
FEO Media Centre – 16/10/20 – 3.30pm

The Registrar of Political Parties wishes to publicly highlight questionable conduct by solicitors engaged by Hon. Biman Prasad to be his legal counsel namely Mr. Adish Narayan. The Fijian Elections Office informed Mr Prasad that we would refer his conduct to FICAC in terms of the donations that he has made to the National Federation Party, particulars of which has been released to you earlier today through a press release.

The Registrar received a letter this morning signed by Mr. Adish Narayan of AK Lawyers advising that they carry instructions to reply to our letter that we sent to Mr Biman Prasad. At this juncture I highlight that the notification to Hon. Prasad was not designed to seek any responses but merely to notify him of the findings of the Registrar and the necessary actions that we have taken thereafter.

However, as instructed apparently and instead of producing a substantive reply, Mr. Narayan has demanded that the Registrar seeks further clarifications from his firm to ‘avoid both embarrassment and legal consequences of any retraction of your proposed complaint to FICAC”.

Further, after being advised that the matter had already been referred to FICAC, Mr. Narayan through one Elizabeth Saverio threatened the Registrar “We still caution you regarding any media releases or other action you take without verification from us.” All this time no verification has yet been provided if there was any.

The FEO has referred Hon. Prasad to FICAC and as has been the practice of the FEO, we issued a media release briefly outlining what Hon. Prasad had been referred to FICAC for, and the particular section that the Registrar found Hon. Prasad to have breached together with a brief detail on the basis for which the Registrar felt there was a probable breach of the law.

This statement is consistent with every other time the Registrar has referred a Party or a person, for purportedly breaching a provision of the law.

It is always noted by the Registrar in light of his responsibilities under the statutory role that the referral to FICAC of a probable breach is afterwards determined by FICAC whether it intends to prosecute or not.

The Registrar has always been transparent about the activities of the Registrar and in the event the Registrar becomes aware that a breach is no longer committed or was not committed, the Registrar has acted to quickly withdraw the complaints and we have made public statements of that information as well. You may note recently from the example where a Company had donated to the National Federation Party and once the party informed the Registrar that it had refunded the money, since there was no more breach, the Registrar withdrew the complaint.

It is in the genuine public interest to be informed of any purported breaches of the law that has been identified by the Registrar and has been referred to FICAC for investigation. The Registrar has consistently issued such brief statements to uphold the public expectations.

The correspondence from AK Lawyers purportedly acting on behalf of Hon. Prasad in which the lawyers have sought to pressure or coerce the Registrar from issuing any statement is unfortunate. It is also unfortunate that the firm of lawyers purportedly acting for and on behalf of Hon. Prasad saw it fit to attempt to unduly influence the Registrar from carrying out his functions and necessary responsibilities under the law and carrying out his functions as expected in public interest.

I wish to put both Hon. Prasad and his purported law firm on notice that such actions attempting to compromise the role of the Registrar will not be taken lightly.

If the law firm claims to have been retained by Hon. Prasad to provide a purported response to the Registrar, then it should do exactly that. Resorting to threatening and condescending behaviour in attempts to circumvent the Registrar’s processes only shows desperation and it is highly irregular.

The Registrar respects that any person in Fiji has the constitutional right to be represented by a legal counsel, however at this point in time, this matter is neither civil nor criminal in nature. It is merely a correspondence by the Registrar to a person directly involved or believed to be involved in the commission of a probable offence. It is therefore the responsibility of that person to obtain legal advice and respond to the Registrar rather than having a firm of lawyers issuing directives to the Registrar.

Ends–

Update on National Federation Party

Statement by the Supervisor of Elections
Mr Mohammed Saneem
Update on National Federation Party
FEO Media Centre – 25/09/20 – 4pm

  1. The FEO has completed the verification of the disclosures submitted by the National Federation Party [NFP] for the rest of the years 2015, 2016 (except the receipts as we are yet to receive them), 2017 and 2019. The 2018 Accounts have already been sent to NFP for a proper Audit Report.
  2. The Registrar extends its appreciation to the NFP for co-operating with the Registrar and also for providing all the documents as well as explanations were required. The verification exercise has allowed the Registrar to vet all documents that are accessible to the public so accuracy, integrity ad transparency.
  3. For the purposes of clarity, the NFP is required under section 23 of the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding & Disclosures) Act 2013 [Act] as follows:

23.—(1) A political party shall, within 30 days of the end of its financial year, provide to the Registrar the following information in writing—

(a)the sources of its funds stating—

(i) the amount of money received from its members and supporters; and
(ii) the amount and sources of the donations given to the party;

(b) the income and expenditure of the political party; and

(c) the assets and liabilities of the political party.

4. The NFP had not submitted the above requirements until it was directed by the Registrar on 19 August 2020. The NFP complied with the directive and provided all the disclosures on 26 August 2020.

5. On completion of the verification exercise, the FEO identified various discrepancies in the disclosures for the individual years. However, it was found that there were some discrepancies that were common for all the accounts. Listed below are the particulars of discrepancies for your noting:

a) The Amount and Sources of Donations Lists are not true and proper reflection of the donations received by the Party;
b) The Party neglected and/or failed to issue receipts for all the monies it received;
c) The Party failed to reconcile the deposits in the Bank accounts;
d) The Party conducted fundraising but failed to account for all the proceeds accurately in its books of accounts; and
e) The Party opened a Bank account titled ‘Relief and Welfare Fund’ but used the same for general operations of the Party. Donations to this account were not properly recorded in the List of Donations submitted to the Registrar.

6. For the purposes of compliance, the Registrar has provided the full breakdown to the NFP to assist the party in rectifying the defects.

7. In light of the above discrepancies, the Registrar finds that the NFP’s List of Party Donations for the years 2015-2019 are not true and accurate reflection of the donations and monies received by the Party and this constitutes a breach of the Act.
Under section 19 of the Act, the Registrar may de-register a Political Party that has contravened the provisions of the Act. The fact that there are discrepancies in the accounts for the last 5 years is a matter of great concern.

8. Whilst the law allows the Registrar to initiate Deregistration process for breaches of the Act by Political Parties, the Registrar has opted not to do so yet. Instead, the Registrar will allow the NFP to rectify the errors and furnish the Registrar with disclosures that accurately reflect the requirements under section 23 of the Act.

9. Since the Registrar’s team has already identified the particulars of the discrepancies, the NFP is hereby granted 21 days to rectify the disclosures and re-submit the same to the Registrar failing which the Registrar will have no choice but to invoke section 19 of the Act and the Party may be suspended as well.

10. The Registrar further advises that once the revised disclosures are received, the Registrar shall publish the same in the Gazette as required under section 23(3).

Discrepancies in Financial Disclosures for the National Federation

Statement by the Registrar of Political Parties
Mr Mohammed Saneem
Discrepancies in Financial Disclosures for the National Federation Party
FEO Media Centre – 10/09/20 – 3.30pm

The FEO has completed its verification on the disclosures submitted by the National Federation Party [NFP] and acknowledges the Party’s cooperation in furnishing the FEO with the required documents.

The Registrar commenced verification of the accounts submitted by the Party and it was decided to start with 2018, being election year, in which public interest in adherence to the law and transparency is higher.
At the completion of the verification process, the FEO has identified various discrepancies which are listed as follows:

  1. The Audit Report for 2018 was prepared and signed off by Parkers Chartered Accountants (Fiji) PTE Limited, and this is in breach of Fiji Institute of Accountants Act [FIA Act]. The Independent Auditors Report has been issued by a Limited Liability Company. Section 43 of the FIA Act states that:

(1) Any act done by a body corporate or by any director, officer or servant thereof of such a nature or in such a manner as to be calculated to imply that the body corporate is a chartered accountant in public practice shall be an offence under this Act and such body corporate shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding $5,000 and, where such act is done by a director, officer or servant of such body corporate, such director, officer or servant thereof shall also be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding $1,000 .

The NFP is required to submit audited accounts from an approved Auditor under the FIA Act.

ii. The total of source of party funding in the audited financial statement is overstated by $103,032.00 if all the receipts are taken into account. If bank statements are considered, then the same is still overstated by $8,760.47.

iii. It is found from the verification of the receipts that the Party has failed/ neglected to issue receipts for amounts which add up to $131,578.00. It is also highly questionable how, the Party, when it submitted the List of Donations 2 years later, derived that 54 entries in the Source of Party Funding List were attributed to individuals when these monies were not receipted at the time of receipt. The Party has confirmed that there are no other recording mechanisms within the Party if receipts were not issued.

iv. The Party explained that receipts were not issued as monies were directly deposited into the Party Bank account. This however, is not correct as there still remain monies ($92,272.00) in the List of Donations not verifiable from the Bank deposits.

v. There were 9 transactions amounting to $17,560 identified from receipt books that were not included in the Source of Party Funding.

vi. The Registrar notes that Ms. Seni Nabou, Vice President, at the meeting with the Registrar confirmed paying $3000 but ‘was not bothered about the receipt at the time’ is not a sufficient explanation that the Party could not issue receipts. Such explanations and practices raise doubts on the Party’s handling of its finances and also shows shear lack of due regard for proper record keeping and management of donations.

vii. It is noted from receipts that the Party has failed to account for $417 received by the party in 2018 but this has not been properly declared in the Source of Party Funding as required under section 23(1).

viii. The Donations, Subscriptions and Candidate Fees in the audited financial statement is overstated by $36,582.47 when verified against the various bank statements.

ix. The Parliamentary sourcing funds has been understated in the financial statement by $7,500 in comparison to Bank Statements.

x. It is found that there were 17 transactions in the value of $103,766.83, being direct deposits in the bank that cannot be linked to the Source of Party Funding list and the receipt books.

xi. There were 3 transactions which had variance in the party source of funding list in comparison to the receipted amounts which came to a total of $469.00;

xii. There were unexplained entries included in the Source of Funding list for example, the inclusion of “NUCW Refund of Office Maintenance”;

xiii. The closing bank balance stated in the audited financial statement for Account number: 1023743 is -$357 which does not match with the closing bank balance of $4,039.97 as given in the Bank Audit Certificate and the Bank Statement.

xiv. The Party has failed to properly declare the total funds it has raised through ‘fundraising activities’. In its Audited Financial statement the Party noted the amount to be $79,448.00, then in its letter dated 4 September 2020 the party provided well documented breakdown of the fundraising and the total was $88,020.00. However, after verification of Bank deposits, the total from the Bank deposits is $99,770.00.

xv. There are mismatching entries where the bank statement lists donations but it is wrongly reflected in the Source of Funding List.

It must be noted that the issues identified above contain possible breaches of the law, and those matters have been referred to FICAC.

It is also noted that the Audited Report is deemed defective in law and as such, the Registrar will reject the same. The Party ought to ensure that it complies with all the laws all the time. It has once again furnished a report that fails to meet the legal standards. This means that the Party has been in breach of the Political Parties Act since 2019.

The Registrar has also identified significant issues in the accounts of the Party itself. The issues range from failing to issue receipts, allowing (and possibly using) funds received by the party in breach of the law, failing to properly record fundraising activities carried out by the Party and mis-stating accounts of the Party. Some amounts as highlighted above are material and by any standard some discrepancies value over $100,000.

Of greater concern is the failure by the Party to properly and accurately declare the income and the source of such income by the Party in accordance with section 23(1) of the Political Parties Act.

In light of the above, I find that the National Federation Party is in breach of the Political Parties Act.

The Registrar will act to protect public record and ensure that there is proper compliance with the laws. Also in line with the directions of the Court in the earlier case of National Federation Party v Supervisor of Elections, HBM 28 of 2016, I hereby direct the National Federation Party as follows:

a. To appoint an independent Auditor that is duly registered with the Fiji Institute of Accountants, except Parkers Business Solutions or any person engaged in the said firm or company, within 7 days from today to carry out the Independent Audit of the Political Party Accounts for the year 2018. The notice of such appointment must be furnished to the registrar on or before 4pm on 18 September 2020.

b. To re-submit the Source of Party Funding List for the year 2018 to the Registrar with exact details and particulars.

c. To submit the Audited Annual Financial Report as required under section 26 of the Act within 30 days of the Appointment of the Auditor as above.

On this note I wish to acknowledge Mr. Chandu Lodhia, the treasurer for NFP who has worked with the FEO to ensure that the verification process is done with all the information as FEO required.

Response to Hon. Pio Tikoduadua’s comments in Parliament

Response to Hon. Pio Tikoduadua’s comments in Parliament

11 December 2020

In response to Honorable Pio Tikoduadua’s statement in Parliament yesterday, the Fijian Elections Office [FEO] presents an email and a letter from Hon. Tikoduadua dated 22 October 2020 in which Hon. Tikoduadua expressly requested the FEO to put all matters in writing to the National Federation Party [NFP] wherein the FEO had requested that the NFP hold meetings with the FEO so that all matters could be put across to them and
explained thoroughly.

It would be improper for Hon. Tikoduadua to now complain when the FEO simply followed his own request. He could have agreed to attend the meetings as suggested and taken notes appropriately or even audio recorded the same.

-Ends

Award of Seat in Parliament

Decision of Electoral Commission- Award of Seat in Parliament

8 December 2020

The Electoral Commission has this afternoon approved the appointment of Ms Tanya Waqanika- SODELPA and Mr Virendra Lal- FijiFirst to fill the vacant seats in Parliament following the resignations of Mr Sitiveni Rabuka and Mr Vijendra Prakash.

The Speaker has been notified accordingly.

-Ends-

Verification of FijiFirst List of Donations

Completion of Verification of FijiFirst List of Donations

25 November 2020

The Registrar of Political Parties has completed the verification of the list of donations of FijiFirst against bank statements and other financial disclosures submitted by the Party.

On 17 September 2020, the Registrar uplifted all the Receipt books from the party for the years 2015-2019. Thereafter, the Registrar obtained all the Party bank statements and the verification process commenced on 23 September 2020.

During the verification exercise, the Registrar made enquires with the Party in relation to one person having donated over the $10,000 limit to which the Party clarified that there was a typo error in the name and this has been noted in the publication of the Lists.The Registrar has also sighted the receipt book record to verify the same.

The Registrar also made enquiries with the Party in relation to donations from persons who appear to be currently holding Statutory Board appointments to determine if there is a probable breach of the law. After verification, the Registrar determined these donations did not constitute any breach of electoral law. In a few cases, other persons of the same name had made donations to the Party.

The Registrar has found that the list of donations conforms to the requirements of the law and therefore, the Registrar will now publish the accounts as required under section 23(3) of the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Act 2013
in the Fiji Sun tomorrow, 26 November 2020.

-Ends-

National Federation Party Complies with Political Parties Act

National Federation Party Complies with s26 of the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Act

6 November 2020

The National Federation Party has this afternoon complied with the directives of the Registrar to submit Audited Financial Statements for the year 2018 after it was found that the earlier report submitted by the Party to the Registrar failed to comply with the law.

“It has been noted that the Auditor, Messrs. Naiveli & Co. have issued a qualified report for the 2018 Financial Statements highlighting that they were not able to carry out ‘satisfactory audit verification’ of the recording of income from fundraising and donations,” said Mr. Mohammed Saneem, Registrar of Political Parties.

The Auditor also states that ‘there were a significant amounts of cheque withdrawals which lacked sufficient independent source documents as satisfactory audit evidence’.

The Registrar will make further enquiries on the same in the coming week.

-Ends

Verification of Political Party Disclosures

Update on Verification of Political Party Disclosures

23 October 2020

The following is an update on the verification of the List of Donations for Political Parties against receipt books and bank statements of the Political Party. Below is an update on the verification exercise so far:

1. National Federation Party
The Party has re-submitted the Donor lists as directed by the Registrar of Political Parties and also responded to the queries raised by the Registrar from the initial verification exercise.

2. FijiFirst
The Registrar completed the initial verification exercise on Monday, 19 October 2020 and referred a few matters to the Party for clarification which was due on 26 October 2020. The Party has this afternoon responded to the Registrar and provided clarifications on all the matters raised. The Party Auditor has also issued a letter confirming the contents of the Response by the Party.

The Response by the Party will be considered in light of the matters initially identified and the Lists next week.

3. Fiji Labour Party
The initial verification of the Donor Lists for the Fiji Labour Party has been completed and the Registrar has referred some matters in the Donor Lists from 2015, 2016 and 2017 to the Party for clarification. Once received, the Response by the Party will be considered in light of the matters initially identified and the Lists.

4. Social Democratic Liberal Party
The Registrar has commenced verification of the Donor Lists for the Party this morning.

-Ends

Reply by the Registrar of Political Parties

Reply by the Registrar of Political Parties

19 October 2020

The Registrar has perused the media release from the National Federation Party [“NFP”]. All media were given a copy of the letter from the NFP to the Registrar explaining the details of the expenditure from the Relief and Welfare Fund. I urge the media to directly publish the letter and its attachments as a self-explanatory response to Hon. Prasad.

Hon. Prasad has not disputed that the NFP spent only $2154.00 for cyclone relief from a fund that had accumulated $22,736.95. Any other expenses or disclosures that the party may have with-held from the Registrar is irrelevant to the handling of this fund.

-Ends

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