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Court dismisses claim

Litia Cava
Friday, February 09, 2018

ACCOUNTING firm Aliz Pacific has lost its defamation case against the Auditor-General after his 2010 report questioned their appointment to a $500,000 consultancy funded by the Government.

Justice Riyaz Hamza dismissed the Aliz Pacific claim, saying the firm had failed to establish that the words used by the Auditor-General were defamatory or published maliciously.

The case began after Aliz Pacific received a consultancy contract to restructure Rewa Co-operative Dairy Company (RCDC) in 2010.

The Government agreed to fund the consultancy, costing $500,000 plus $62,500 VAT.

Aliz Pacific partner Dr Nur Bano Ali then told the RCDC board that her firm had been awarded the consultancy.

In its 2010 report, the Auditor-General noted that tenders had not been called for the consultancy.

This, said the report, "cast doubt on the transparency of the award process".

It noted that further consultancy funds were paid to Aliz Pacific in 2011.

Aliz Pacific and Dr Ali sued the Auditor-General in 2014, seeking an injunction to restrain the Auditor-General's office from further publishing any reports about them and the restructure of RCDC.

They also sought orders that the Auditor-General remove the words in the 2010 report.

Justice Hamza noted that Dr Ali had told the RCDC board in May 2010 that Aliz Pacific had been appointed to the consultancy through the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

He said that it was an agreed fact that the Government paid Aliz Pacific $562,500 in 2010 for their services under a July 9, 2010 agreement.

Justice Hamza noted that under the Government's Finance Instructions a tender had to be called for the procurement of goods, services or works valued at $30,001 and this had not been done.

Justice Hamza said he agreed with the Auditor-General's defence that the statements in his report were statements of fact and were true in substance and in fact.

He also agreed that they could be considered to be fair comment on a matter of public interest.

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