Former Fiji Sugar Corporation chief executive Abdul Khan was paid up to $840,000 per year in salary and bonuses between 2011 and 2016, Sugar Minister Charan Jeath Singh revealed yesterday. His successor, expatriate Graham Clark, received a $728,000 per year package.
In a news conference yesterday, Mr Singh attacked the remuneration packages and blasted the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) for taking more than three years to complete an investigation pertaining to abuse of office and corruption.
“Abdul Khan, the former board member who advanced to CEO and executive chair of the FSC, enjoyed a hefty salary package plus other benefits as high as $840,000 per annum while in position for five years since 2011 until his resignation in 2016, while the industry continued to collapse taking down with it the innocent farmers who have for generations invested their blood and sweat in the cane fields,” Mr Charan said.
“For a company which is insolvent and merely keeping afloat on government guaranteed loans and other government loans which has previously been written off, the former board must also be made to answer questions on how they allowed the FSC to be run with such irresponsible and lavish expenditure without transparency and accountability of repeated loses year after year by its management.”
Mr Singh said that under the chairmanship of Canada-based Vishnu Mohan, FSC chose an expatriate for the top job at FSC in 2017 to further burden the corporation.
“Mr Graham Clark, the Zimbabwe-born CEO, in his tenure from 2017 to 2021, benefitted from a remuneration and allowance disbursement of $728,000 per annum.
“Under his leadership FSC purchased 114 cane transporting trucks and mechanical harvesters and 30 tractors which are parked idle in off-season periods. An absolute waste and exploitation of desperate, much-needed funds.” Mr Singh said that a former FSC chief operating officer, Navin Chandra had a package and allowances exceeding $550,000 per annum.
“Mr Martin Welch, advising engineer, had a $433,000 per annum package and Mr Gavin Taylor, field extension services, received $335,000 per annum.
“With all these lavish remuneration packages and supposed expertise across its management tier, it’s anyone’s guess why FSC has not been able to perform and rescue itself from substantial losses and agonising industry demise.
“It seems as if the FSC was an institution of personal growth and ambition.
“Who approved these extravagant remuneration packages and under what process was it endorsed is another matter to be investigated.”
Mr Singh said the former Minister for Sugar Voreqe Bainimarama seemed to be “sleeping on his job” as these things were happening “right under his nose”.
“As Minister for Sugar, I’m today sounding an alarm and putting out a notice to those who intend mischief, do not mess with our industry and our farmers and expect a major refinement and subsequent rival of what was once Fiji’s proud revenue earner, that is my promise.”