THE HIGHER Salaries Commission allows for a higher remuneration package for expatriates compared to the locals.
Amalaini Kuruvakadua, who was the commission's manager in 2005, yesterday took the witness stand in the case against Fiji National Provident Fund's former CEO Olota Rokovunisei.
She made the comment after being asked by defence lawyer Samanunu Vaniqi if she could recall the former chief investment officer (Thomas Cotton) having a base salary of $250,000 per annum.
Ms Kuruvakadua agreed that in this case, the CIO was paid more than the CEO.
On Wednesday, the court heard Mr Rokovunisei was paid $135,778 until May 28, 2004 when he received $150,000 per annum.
Mr Rokovunisei is being charged for a count of extortion, an alternative count of abuse of office and the second count of abuse of office.
Earlier yesterday, Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption lawyer Shalini Sanmorgan asked Ms Kuruvakadua questions relating to the HSC guidelines. The witness said remuneration packages prepared by HSC for an executive included salary, allowance and benefits for the duration of that officer's contract.
She said any amendment to the remuneration should come from the board or employer and not the executive concerned.
Ms Kuruvakadua also said there was no clause in Mr Rokovunisei's contract catering for an acting or responsibility allowance.
Ms Sanmorgan asked Ms Kuruvakadua whether a CEO could approve any payment, which was not part of an executive's contract. The latter said no.
During cross examination, Ms Kuruvakadua agreed that if a CEO was claiming an allowance, the board chair was the person to approach the HSC.
She also agreed that the HSC wouldn't know the inner workings and decisions at FNPF except for what the board chair presented to them.
According to the HSC guidelines highlighted by Ms Vaniqi, FNPF could go to HSC with a submission for a performance, bonus or merit pay.
Ms Kuruvakadua said those were based on key performance indicators for the executive positions and not for when they were acting in a post.
Ms Vaniqi said when her client signed his three-year contract in 2004, there was no way to predict that he would act in a post a year later. Ms Kuruvakadua said she was of the view that the as CEO, there was no other post for Mr Rokovunisei to act in.
Ms Vaniqi said as a result of the submission policy in the HSC guidelines, if an executive was on overseas leave for two weeks, her client could take responsibility and perhaps take an allowance for that time.
Ms Kuruvakadua said she was not in a position to agree. Ms Vaniqi asked Ms Kuruvakadua if she thought it was impractical to run and claim for an allowance because executives came and went.
Ms Kuruvakadua said she agreed theoretically.
Referring to a letter from HSC to FNPF, dated December 17, 2003, Ms Vaniqi suggested it was opening up negotiations with FNPF on salaries, what the base salary was and explain whey they should get more.
Ms Vaniqi suggested that HSC was telling the FNPF board that despite numerous requests, nothing was done and HSC would like to settle the issue once and for all, saying negotiations lasted from December 2003 to September 2006.
Ms Kuruvakadua agreed.
She also said acting or responsibility allowance was never a justification for an increase in remuneration packages.
The case continues today.