28 March, 2018, 12:00 am
DURING the Republic of Fiji Military Forces’ (RFMF) response to the audit findings on the Auditor-General’s report on the General Administration Sector Audit for 2016, numerous questions were asked by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the state of the naval vessels and expenditure spent on them.
The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) during the audit had noted that only two of the five vessels owned by Fiji navy were fully operational. They also noted that the annual budget allocation of $2 million for the Kiro Patrol Boat Life Extension Program since 2013 had not been utilised and was returned to the Ministry of Economy at the end of each year. The vessel ran aground on July 15, 2016 and salvage attempts made had been unsuccessful. Further, although, the RFMF had spent a total of $1,882,394 from 2013 to July 2016 for the Life Expectancy Program of vessel RFNS Kikau but the vessel remains inoperative. The OAG had concluded that the findings indicated the lack of priority placed in the Life Expectancy Programs of vessels.
Deputy RFMF Commander Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz said most of the vessels, in terms of life expectancy, had reached their maximum life span.
“In order to ensure that the vessels continued to service our needs we undertook Life Extension Programs (LEP), where we injected money to refit the vessels so they could be seaworthy again; but only to the extent that we could make the vessels useful and able to fulfil the naval requirements. That’s where the money was used,” he said.
Brig-Gen Aziz said in terms of the money allocated but not used this was basically because of the sanctions imposed by Australia on any Australian company that engaged with the RFMF on the LEP.
He said the Fiji Navy was left with no choice but to find alternative service providers which took around eight months and by the time some local companies were identified the funds could not be rolled over into the next financial year.
Opposition member Aseri Radrodro asked: “There are only two of the five navy vessels in operation as highlighted in the audit; is this the current status right now?”
“Currently we have three naval vessels that are servicing the needs of the Fiji navy,” Brig-Gen Aziz said.