FIJI “ON THE CUSP OF GREATNESS”, SAYS AG

The Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has said that Fiji is on the cusp of greatness and could rival or surpass Singapore with higher standards of personal and corporate behavior.

He said this was the exciting prospect in store for the nation as the economy grows, the Bainimarama Government’s various reforms take root and overall standards are raised.

The AG was speaking to a gathering of senior officials of the various State Owned Enterprises attending a three-day course in Suva conducted by the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

They are being instructed on their obligations under the revised 2013 Fiji Companies Decree, which requires board members of Public Enterprises to meet higher standards of compliance in carrying out their fiduciary duties.

They are also having their skills upgraded in a range of other director responsibilities, such as understanding balance sheets, underlying principles of corporate governance and identifying strategies and risks.

The AG referred to a “culture of dishonesty in Fiji” that the Bainimarama Government was stamping out by insisting that board members, including those in State Enterprises, owed their allegiance to their companies rather than certain individuals.

“Most of the State Owned Industries in Fiji have been corrupt. It’s a given. In probably all of the organisations that you are in, I can give you some incident. Some have been corrupt in the sense of taking bribes directly, tender processes have not been followed or people who have directors on those various boards have allowed those statutory bodies or state- owned enterprises to go and procure services from their very own companies, or they have allowed the finances from those public companies to be used for their own personal purposes”, he said

The AG spoke of a culture in which directors had received direct payments from companies tendering for building projects, had their children’s school fees or medical bills paid or had been given loans in exchange for favours. They had also used their positions on boards to enrich themselves.

“What we have been trying to do through the Ministry of Public Enterprises is basically lift up the bar…and bring us into line with best international practice. So what we hope you take away from here is to be engendered with the idea that there’s a certain high level required on you as a director and that your fiduciary duty is to the organisation”.

The AG said the Bainimarama Government has tried to get a bigger array of qualified Fijians with different skills sets to sit on the boards of Public Enterprises but had been thwarted by the sanctions imposed by its neighbours after 2006.

“Unfortunately, we have been somewhat restricted by the pool of people we can choose from because of the travel bans imposed by Australia and New Zealand…but hopefully that is easing off”.

The AG expressed the Government’s thanks to the visiting team from the Australian Institute of Company Directors for the experience and skills they were bringing to Fiji. “I’m grateful that the AICD has presented this course to us and we hope to do more in the future”, he concluded.

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