All posts by Neelam Prasad

Reference to Registrar – Incorrect

26 February 2021

The Registrar of Political Parties has come across a reference in the Fiji Sun’s front page article titled: “Banned: Three members told not to attend SODELPA Management Board meeting today”, in which the article quotes one Ratu Tevita Komisavai as saying: The general secretary has told me that the Registrar of Political Parties has advised them to disallow us from attending the meeting.”

The Registrar holds an independent office and does not engage in the internal affairs of the political parties particularly giving advice to political parties. The role of the Registrar is to maintain the regulatory compliance of political parties with the law and at any time when there is a lack of compliance, takes action to ensure that the laws are upheld.

At no occasion does the Registrar provide direct advice in the management of political parties and any such claim or allegation thereof is incorrect and designed to bring the Registrar’s office into the affairs of the party.

The Registrar urges all political party representatives to understand the office of the Registrar’s role in terms of the management of the Political Parties Act and the regulatory compliance of political parties. It is highly inappropriate for any person to allude the name of the Registrar for any action they may wish to undertake or justify.

Whilst the Registrar will remain impartial and independent at all times, the circumstances are such that the Registrar can be contacted by political party officials in case they need clarifications on such claims and allegations.

 

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Registrar finds Irregularities in the List of Donations for Unity Fiji and Freedom Alliance

29 January 2021

The Registrar of Political Parties has completed the verification of the list of donations for Unity Fiji and the Freedom Alliance Party. The Registrar has found various discrepancies in the List of Disclosures and as such he has written to both Parties to provide clarifications on the disclosures.

In terms of Unity Fiji, the Registrar has found various donations that were recorded in the bank statements or in the receipt book. The Registrar is of the view that not all the sources of funds have been accurately reflected in the disclosures submitted by the Party. Some funds appear in the bank statements but have not been receipted following a verification of the receipts. However, the same was not listed as required under section 23 of the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding & Disclosures) Act, 2013.

It is important to point out that Freedom Alliance is a political party that does not operate a bank account till date since its registration in 2014. The Party has contested the 2014 General Election and the 2018 General Election, however, it has maintained that it did not collect any funds. The Party has also not accounted for candidate fees in its accounts and
this is questionable.

The accounts of this Party (Freedom Alliance) have been certified by Auditors engaged by the Party over the last six (6) years, however, the Registrar is concerned as to why the Auditors also did not seek such verification.

“Auditors engaged by Political Parties owe a duty of care to the Registrar of Political Parties and they are required by law to conduct the Audit independently. It is incorrect for the Auditor to assume they are agents of the Political Party, rather they hold a statutory responsibility to audit the compliance of the Political Party to the funding framework under the law. They must carry out this process diligently and where they find breaches of the law, they must note the same in their report without hesitation,” explains Mr. Saneem.

The Registrar wishes to advise members of the Public who have obtained copies of the Lists of Disclosures for both these Parties that the List may be revised and re-submitted by the Parties in due course. Both the Political Parties have been allowed time to respond to the Registrar and in the case of Unity Fiji, the Party has been instructed to prepare an accurate list of donations under the law and furnish the same within 14 days.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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