Minister blames officials for $550m loss

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Minister for Sugar, Charan Jeath Singh. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

Sugar ministers, permanent secretaries, multiple Fiji Sugar Corporation chairmen, directors of the FSC board and highly paid CEOs of FSC from 2005-2018 are all guilty of serious abandonment of their fiduciary duties to the company, said Minister for Sugar, Charan Jeath Singh.

He made the comments after revealing FSC suffered a loss of $550 million through its disastrous mill upgrade program of its four mills since its commencement in 2006 through a $102 million loan taken from the Exim Bank of India.

Mr Singh states they have found project management being a dismal failure, ineffective, lacking basic transparency and without adequate checks and balances.

“It also points out the absence of co-ordination between the project manager in India, his team on site in Fiji, the vendors, their subcontractors and most importantly the FSC team in Fiji,” said Mr Singh.

“These issues and potential conflicts should have been diligently anticipated and addressed in the initial contract negotiations and a proper resolution framework should have been agreed to.

“The most serious act of negligence on FSC’s part was its failure to appoint a technically qualified engineer to supervise the project that would ensure delivery of all the agreed KPIs.

“Because of the recurrent issues, FSC was forced to hire 40 additional Indian technical staff for three years at an average annual salary of nearly $77,000. This was almost five times the average earnings for the nearly 2000 local FSC workforce.

“Everybody involved in the oversight and delivery of the investment outcomes failed the industry.

“From the sugar ministers down to permanent secretaries, multiple chairmen and directors of the FSC board to a long succession of highly paid CEOs of FSC, they are all guilty of serious abandonment of their fiduciary duties.

“Who were these people running the projects from its commencement in 2006? They shall remain unnamed for the time being, but we know who they are. Has any one of them been asked to account for their failures?

“The nation must demand answers and those responsible should take ownership of the crisis and carnage they have left for this government to clean. They must also declare if they have in any way benefitted from this saga.”

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