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Query on project

Manasa Kalouniviti
Saturday, November 04, 2017

THE Ba Town Council (BTC) on Thursday made a submission to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the 2014 Auditor-General's report (OAG) on municipal councils.

PAC chairperson Ashneel Sudhakar had raised the issue of the Tavua and Ba end museum project which involved the council's attempt to erect a BTC historical sugar museum in early 2013 that would be a symbol of the early sugar industry days on which the town of Ba had been built on.

The museum was meant to house locomotives, tractors, a chimney from the Fiji Sugar Corporation Ltd (FSC) and other historical relics from the early days of the sugar industry.

Mr Sudhakar said the museum project had raised a number of interesting anomalies according to the OAG, which included no minuted approval to carry out the project; no feasibility study undertaken causing council to remove the museum construction; no Fiji Roads Authority (FRA), Water Authority of Fiji (WAF) and FSC approvals; and improper records of costs kept for audit.

The committee further heard most materials used in the project were provided free by the community of Ba with council supplying the labour. However, the OAG had noted that no evidence existed to substantiate these arrangements and concluded that these anomalies indicated improper planning by the council in the construction of the museum.

"This museum was created without much consultation," Mr Sudhakar said

"Now the issue here is who was the person responsible for constructing this museum without all these approvals, which had to be demolished later?"

Council CEO Dip Narayan replied that the project was solely directed by the then special administrator (SA), Arun Prasad, who was now no longer with the council.

"His employment with the council was terminated with a few others," Mr Narayan replied when asked by the chair what had happened to him.

Mr Narayan said initially it was agreed just to have a signboard at the Tavua end of Ba and then slowly develop the idea of planning and constructing the museum.

"We advised Mr Prasad that we needed a plan for the development of the project and his reply was 'at the completion then we'll devise a plan'.

"And we also advised him that the area had sewer and water mains running through it but he was insistent that we carried on. But later on it was removed and we have transferred the equipment and the monuments to our existing museum," he said.

Mr Sudhakar said: "As CEO, you would have been aware that this particular site was unsuitable for the project and you gave this advice to the SA."

"Yes sir, but despite that he overruled our advice," Mr Narayan said.

"Where are the documents proving that the community of Ba provided materials for this project," the chairman asked.

The council CEO said they had a list of the people who had assisted in the project.

"Any idea what putting the museum up had cost the council," Mr Sudhakar asked.

The CEO asked if they could provide the answer within seven days to which the chairperson asked if they could also provide the list of donors.

The PAC was chaired by Mr Sudhakar, with Government member Mr Dean and Opposition members Aseri Radrodro and Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu sitting in along with reps from the OAG and the Ministry of Local Government.

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