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Not merit based

Nasik Swami
Saturday, November 11, 2017

THE National Federation Party (NFP) claims it has evidence that the membership of boards of government's statutory organisations as well as that of a few independent commissions are not merit based, but political appointments.

Party leader Professor Biman Prasad claimed the political appointments had resulted in board members being heavily politicised, causing interference in the operations of the organisations.

He made the comment after former Land Transport Authority (LTA) CEO Carmine Piantedosi alleged that he was coerced into resigning by the LTA board.

"We are really not surprised by Mr Piantedosi's statement that he did not resign for personal and family reasons as announced by the LTA board chairman because if he did, he would have informed the LTA staff well in advance of his departure," he said.

"We have gathered reliable information that Mr Piantedosi was subject to allegations arising out of his actions and decisions. However, those allegations were not investigated and the board itself became the judge, jury and the executioner."

Prof Prasad said the right thing to do in any disciplinary process was not to terminate or coerce someone to quit a job but to tell him or her to step aside or go on leave to allow for an independent investigation of the allegations.

"We have seen three expatriates, including two permanent secretaries quit their jobs in the last 18 months. One lasted three months and Mr Piantedosi was on the job for less than six months.

"Any government should be concerned about the sudden exodus of personnel that were hired and introduced to the people of Fiji as having vast experience and knowledge in their respective fields."

He claimed the party had evidence that those appointed to the boards were either strong FijiFirst supporters, financiers or tasked by FijiFirst to organise fundraising drives for the party.

"We know that one member of the LTA board organises fundraising drives for FijiFirst. This is also true for a member of an independent commission who is also a member of other statutory boards.

"Therefore, most boards and key appointments in statutory organisations and even in the civil service are not merit based, but on political cronyism and nepotism. If this is not so, then the minister responsible for LTA should also demand the resignation of the LTA board for failing to follow due process of fair hearing in the interest of justice in Mr Piantedosi's case, and institute an independent investigation into the operations of LTA as well as of the board."

Responding to Prof Prasad's claims, acting Prime Minister Jone Usamate said the NFP leader was speaking "political rubbish".

"He (Prof Prasad) is speaking his usual political rubbish and I'll leave it at that," he said.

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