The Attorney General and new Acting Minister for Housing and Local Government, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has told the country’s Special Administrators that the Government will not tolerate instances of Councils refusing to cooperate with FICAC, the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption.
He said putting an end to corruption in Fiji was one of the cornerstones of the Bainimarama Government and there should be no impediment to any FICAC investigation.
“I want to make it clear to all of you that there should never be any doubt in your minds about the need to comply and collaborate with FICAC and work with it to eradicate corruption. The Government insists on fair, honest and transparent governance and will not tolerate unscrupulous or dishonest behaviour, favouritism or nepotism”, he said.
The Minister was speaking at his first meeting in Lautoka at the weekend with the Special Administrators of Lautoka/Nadi, Ba/Tavua/, Rakiraki, Nasinu, Lami and Labasa/Savusavu.
The Special Administrators of Suva and Nausori/Levuka were not present.
He outlined his plans for the portfolio and received a briefing from the individual administrators on the financial situation in their various municipalities and the challenges they face.
The Minister called for a report on the capital projects being undertaken by the various Councils and discussed opportunities to streamline their business activities from a practical and legal perspective to provide ratepayers with better value for money.
He also said that there was a pressing need to reform the system of fees and charges imposed on local businesses, describing the present arrangements as “very unfair” on small business owners.
“It is clearly iniquitous when small business people such as shoe repairers are saddled with exactly the same charges as large business houses when it comes to obtaining business licences, paying for health inspections or obtaining certificates from the National Fire Authority. This goes against a fundamental principle of the Bainimarama Government – which is to create a fairer, more equal society – and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency”, he said.
The meeting also discussed ways in which the various municipalities could deal with problem rate payers.
” Some ratepayers are being openly defiant and simply refuse to pay their rates. These people are placing an unnecessary burden on their fellow citizens to carry the cost of the services they also enjoy. This is not acceptable”, the Minister said.
The Special Administrators were reminded of the significant responsibility they carried to facilitate the Bainimarama Government’s vision for a better Fiji.
“As the Prime Minister has reiterated on numerous occasions, we need better service delivery for ordinary people, a more level playing field and to provide a framework for individuals to succeed and create better lives for themselves and their families. This means putting the interests of those we serve above everything else”, he added.
The Lautoka meeting covered a range of other local government issues, including road and footpath maintenance, the extension of existing market places to cope with an increasing number of vendors, proper drainage systems, squatter settlements, garbage collection, recreational parks and other council projects.