AN executive of the Fiji National Provident Fund earned $100,000 more than the chief executive, the High Court heard yesterday.
During the cross examination of businessman and former FNPF board member Himmat Lodhia, defence lawyer Samanunu Vaniqi said the board paper of July 12, 2006 stated that the chief investment officer had been vacant since Neale Wright resigned earlier in the year and accounting firm KPMG was hired to fill the post.
Mr Lodhia agreed that the reason behind this was because there was no one in Fiji with the experience and skills to handle a billion dollar investment so KPMG was asked to look abroad.
Ms Vaniqi said while the search was on, her client, the then FNPF chief executive officer Olota Rokovunisei acted in the CIO's post for seven months. Mr Lodhia agreed.
Ms Vaniqi said KPMG found Thomas Cotton and asked Mr Lodhia who decided on the new CIO's base salary.
Mr Lodhia said KPMG made a recommendation to the FNPF board.
Ms Vaniqi reiterated that the court heard on Tuesday that the CIO post was an executive post that was not covered by the Higher Salaries Commission guidelines.
Mr Lodhia agreed that the board approved the base salary recommended by KPMG.
Ms Vaniqi asked Mr Lodhia if he was aware that Mr Cotton came in on a base salary of $250,000. Mr Lodhia said he could not remember.
He further added the CEO might be a good person to answer the question because he was on the interview panel for recruitment.
Ms Vaniqi said according to the FNPF Human Resources Policy Manual, a person acting in a post could claim 95 per cent of the difference in salary.
She said her client's contract was silent on the acting or responsibility allowance, to which Mr Lodhia agreed.
However, Mr Lodhia said he could not see the HR policy manual was applicable to the CEO and that it only covered grade one to four employees.
Mr Lodhia agreed with Ms Vaniqi that it was unethical for her client to go to the HSC and that it should come from the board chairperson, according to the HSC guidelines.
Ms Vaniqi said in the case of the CIO, the board decided on a package and they did not have to go to HSC.
Mr Lodhia said it should have been covered by HSC.
Ms Vaniqi asked if the FNPF board could go to the HSC for performance, bonus or merit pay and suggested that those did not cover the acting allowance. Mr Lodhia agreed.
Mr Lodhia agreed with Ms Vaniqi that Mr Rokovunisei was covered by the HSC guidelines and any movement of his pay would go to HSC.
Ms Vaniqi tendered a comparative chart with the base salary of the CEO, the deputy general manager and the CIO.
Mr Lodhia confirmed Mr Cotton earned $250,000 and Mr Rokovunisei earned $135,778.
Ms Vaniqi asked if that was the reason negotiations with HSC took so long on the CEO's salary.
Mr Lodhia said he did not know if that was the reason but that it was the first time for him to sight the comparative chart.
The case continues today.