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Parties call for probe

Mere Naleba
Sunday, November 05, 2017

Political leaders have called on Government to conduct an independent investigation into the "real" reasons behind five expatriates hired for top positions in Government and its statutory bodies resigning just months into their new roles.

The call comes after Land Transport Authority (LTA) CEO Carmaine Piantedosi resigned on Friday, six months after taking up office.

Apart from Mr Piantedosi, former CEO of Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) John Hutchinson also resigned in June, this year.

Former permanent secretary for Communications and Information Technology, Ewan Perrin resigned in May, 2016 after holding the position for four months.

Former MInistry of Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Robin Nair resigned in April, 2017, after 13 months in the position.

Also, the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Local Government and Infrastructure, Paul Bayly resiged last month, after 22 months in office.

NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad said yesterday there could only be two reasons behind the resignations — either Government was recruiting the wrong people or the Government was not providing the right environment for these expats to work in.

Prof Prasad also said there had been claims by expatriates who resigned from top Government jobs on interference by their line ministers.

"This means a lot of wastage, what we need is an independent investigation as to how expatriates are hired, if they are permanent secretaries, then the Public Service Commission ought to come out clearly and take the matter into their hands in an independent manner," he said

He said the resignation of the five expatriates did not reflect well on Fiji's ability to hire from around the globe.

Unity Fiji leader Savenaca Narube said many expatriates thought long and hard about taking up offers in a foreign country and with most of them leaving in a short span of time does not seem right.

"I expect the top civil servants to be professionals and have worked in multicultural situation in the past. It would therefore take a significant reason to make them resign," Mr Narube said

"I join others who have called for an independent investigation into these resignations."

Fiji Labour Party leader and former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry said it was not surprising that expatriates appointed as permanent secretaries and chief executive officers were resigning within months of taking office.

"These executives are coming to us from a completely different work cultures based on accountability, transparency, and democratic decision-making processes," Mr Chaudhry said.

"So it is hardly surprising that they do not last long under the authoritarian system of governance prevalent in Fiji in the past 10 years," Mr Chaudhry claimed.

"There is too much political interference in the public sector in Fiji. These highly qualified professionals do not have a free-hand in carrying out their responsibilities.

"They have no autonomy to manage their departments and ministries as they should be run.

"Proper procedures are not always followed as evidenced by the reports of the Auditor-General," he claimed.

Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa said Government should consider locals for these top jobs instead of hiring expatriates.

"They (expats) do not have any responsibility themselves to our country, they do not see our country as important to them, they see it as just another means to provide for their families economically, so in terms of any connections they have with Fiji, it's just economic," she said.

Three out of the five expats who have resigned worked under the Ministry of Local Government, Environment, Housing and Transport.

Minister, Parveen Kumar said those political leaders who were talking did not know how the system worked.

"There's a board in place, and political parties can say whatever they want to say. LTA has got a board and the FRA too. Don't worry about the political parties, they can say whatever they want to, I can't stop them from saying what they what to say," Mr Kumar said.

People's Democratic Party leader Lynda Tabua did not wish to make any comments on the matter.

Questions sent to Social Democratic Liberal Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka remained unanswered when this edition went to press yesterday.

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