Fiji ranks near bottom for government finance transparency | Pacific Beat

Fiji ranks near bottom for government finance transparency

Fiji ranks near bottom for government finance transparency

Updated 1 February 2013, 17:57 AEDT

Fiji has come close to last place in a worldwide survey of peoples access to information about government finances.

The Open Budget Survey, conducted by the International Budget Partnership NGO, saw Fiji at tenth place from the bottom, ahead of countries such as Burma, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

New Zealand was rated the best in the world for people being able to find out how their government is handling its money.

Reverend Akuila Yabaki, CEO of the Fiji NGO the Citizens Constitutional Forum, says the coup installed military government must be much more transparent.

Presenter:Bruce Hill

Speaker: Reverend Akuila Yabaki, CEO of the Fiji NGO the Citizens Constitutional Forum

YABAKI: Fiji scored six out of a hundred, so six per cent, that's an index rating which is lower even than China's 11.

HILL: So what does this say about Fiji citizens access to information about the public budget and government finances?

YABAKI: It specified particular significant documents which have not been released, pre-budget statement enacted by this proposal, inactive budget, citizen's budget and includes the audit report for 2011, all these have not been released, though it does say that's been produced. Whereas the audit report's been produced, but only for internal use. But we are on the record, the CCF, we did a call way back in 2007 calling on the Bainimarama government to initiate urgent steps to make public the Auditor General's report and other reports from the public accounts committee available to the people of Fiji.

HILL: So people in Fiji haven't had access to the Auditor General's reports, they don't have a clear idea of what the government's finances are?

YABAKI: No the requirement, it's a parliamentary requirement, set under the 1997 constitution, that the government should make a report of expenditures.

HILL: Well there's no parliament now and the 1997 constitution's in abeyance, so that doesn't matter.

YABAKI: That is the reason why the onus is on Cabinet to make the decision. But I think the onus, the greater onus now, now that there's no parliament, that the government should make financial documents available.

HILL: Why is the government not making its financial documents available?

YABAKI: I saw something recently that the Attorney General is saying in the paper that they have lost the human resource, they haven't got the people to do this. But that can't be true since 2006.

HILL: Will this give rise to suspicions that Fiji's finances are in fact not as good as we're told they are?

YABAKI: Oh yes, I think one would say that the global financial crisis is partly responsible. We've had devaluation, but all that is people are in the dark as to what's in store for them in the absence of these documents.

HILL: Why is it important for people to have access to knowledge about the government's finances?

YABAKI: Well I suppose apart from fundamental human rights to have access to freedom of information, it's trying to make a government answerable, accountable to people. People are entitled to know what is the actual state of spending, the salaries of the people who are officers, that is a question which has been raised by political parties, how much people get paid, because one or two ministers hold half a dozen portfolios or even more than that. So all these things raise curiosity, questions. There's the issue of transparency according to good governance and the best authorities defines transparency as decisions taken and the enforcement being done in a manner that follows rules and regulations, it means that information's made freely available and directly accessible. I'd like to end by saying that the people's charter had three pillars which are relevant to this, making demands for greater transparency and accountability from the government in dealing with public funds. So on this point the government is not living up to its belief.

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Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill

Presenter

Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

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