Back in history: State explains $6m

Free passenger train on cane-train route at a Colonial sugar refinery, Fiji. Picture: collections.tepapa.govt.nz

The government planned to make a detailed explanation of how it paid $6 million to the Colonial Sugar Refinery, the acting minister of finance John Falvey, said in an article published in The Fiji Times on September 14, 1973.

He gave the pledge after the leader of opposition, Siddiq Koya, said it seemed as if Parliament did not fully authorise the payment and it broke financial regulations.

The government made the payment earlier in 1973 for CSR’s shares in the South Pacific Sugar Mills Ltd. Mr Koya challenged the payment procedure when the House dealt with a schedule of supplementary spending to the 1973 Budget.

He said he wanted to know why the government drew $6 million from the capital fund for the payment when Parliament authorised a withdrawal of only $4.99 million.

In making the payment, the government apparently debited the capital budget with $3.92 million.

But according to a copy of financial regulations he had, the maximum debit should be only $2 million.

Mr Koya added his copy of the regulations might be outdated. He further questioned the government’s action in paying CSR with money obtained by converting overseas holdings.

When the government had these questions answered he questioned why it failed to consult the Standing Select Committee on Sugar before going ahead with proposals to pay CSR with a loan from a banking consortium.

Mr Koya said his questions were not an insinuation that the money had gone to the wrong hands or had been used for a wrong purpose.

Mr Falvey who was acting for the minister of finance, Charles Stinson, who was abroad at a conference said he would get the queries answered as quickly as possible.

The idea of borrowing money from the banking consortium had been dropped because of interest rate fluctuations, he said.

Mr Falvey said he had learned that it was now possible to deposit $10,000 in London at seven days notice to earn in interest rates of up to 18 per cent.

“If we had borrowed on the international market, we would have copped it in a big way because these borrowings are subject to the review of interest at six monthly intervals,” he said.

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