October 15, 2012

Audit team eye $142K

October 12, 2012
By Maika Bolatiki

A Government audit team returning from Labasa has queried a $142,000 consultancy fee payment to a local lawyer for the three mataqalis involved in bauxite mining in Nawailevu, Bua.

Speaking to the Fiji Sun at his office in Labasa, the manager Northern Development Programme Waisale Tuidama, who is now the consultant of the mataqali Naicobo, said he was at the inquiry carried out by the Government audit team.

“I heard the team querying this $142,000 payout,” Mr Tuidama said.

However, when he asked members of the mataqali Naicobo, they told him this payment was the fee paid to a local lawyer who had advised them on issues about the lease to their land at Nawailevu.

According to the mataqali Naicobo, they were not aware of any consultancy fee as the local lawyer had volunteered to offer them advice.

The landowners told Mr Tuidama that it was in their last meeting that the local consultant pushed for his consultancy fee to be 20 per cent of what they got and this was agreed.

Land Use Unit director Laisa Raratabu told the Fiji Sun that when officers from the unit came in to Nawailevu to offer advice to them, the people of the three mataqali rejected them.

The officers from Land Use Unit had told the landowners that their advice was free and they represented the Government but the landowners were still reluctant to hear them.

However, they found out that the landowners had been told about the price of the aluminum which was a by-product of the bauxite.

In fact what they should have been advised on how to use the money they would get from the bauxite lease.

The landowners had been brainwashed by the local consultant and had learned from their mistake.

The mataqali Naicobo were also queried on the $10,000 payout made to the head of the clan and the $2000 payout to members of the mataqali.

According to Mr Tuidama the audit team was told that the members of the mataqali had unanimously agreed in a meeting on these payments.

The mataqali Naicobo had asked Mr Tuidama to be their consultant and they had formed the Naicobo Investment Limited.

They have elected the board of directors and had held two meetings already in Labasa.

The company now owns two vehicles, both hired by the bauxite company.

Mr Tuidama said the landowners had promised not to be engaged again with consultants who were there just for the money.

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