May 20, 2018 Last Updated 4:18 AM, May 18, 2018

COP23 $9m Presidency

By Anish Chand

"External professional services" was the highest expenditure for the COP23 Presidency of Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama as revealed in the COP23 Trust Fund account report that was tabled in Parliament this week.

F$8,686,717 was used for this service.

External professional services are described as “presidency services” in the accounts. These included strategic advice, negotiations support, capacity building, logistical support, communication and documentation drafting.

Australia contributed the largest sum of money to the COP23 Trust Fund, of about F$9.16m.

As at October 2017, with total donations of F$25,010, 641 and with an expenditure of F$11,599,245, the Fund had a surplus balance of F$13,411,396.

Period of focus in the COP23 Trust Fund Account report were May to October 2017. Tabling of its financial results is required under the COP23 Trust Fund Act of 2017.

The report reveals the accounting firm of KPMG had seconded a senior accountant to be the Manager Finance of the COP23 Fund, a responsibility which now has been taken over by the Ministry of Economy.

In addition to Australia, other major donors to the Fund were the European Union (F$4.79m), Italy (F$2.36m), India (F$2.03) and New Zealand ($F$1.89).

The financial report also provided other breakdown of its F$12m expenditure.

F$1,733,284 was used for organising conferences. The Pre-COP meeting that was held in Nadi incurred an expense of F$1,319,085.

F$727,815 was used in travel expenses for seven events. The highest amount of $F309,129 was incurred for the 23rd Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). F$287,327 was used in travel for Bonn UNFCCC.

Funds for the national climate change week that was held Fiji wide was sourced from the COP23 Trust Fund to a tune of F$167,538.

F$108,148 was used to run the COP23 Secretariat in Suva.

The account also reveals that the UNFCCC funded some of the COP23 Presidency expenses which included travel, per-diems and accommodation for most of the Fijian delegation to UNFCC meetings.

WEATHER forecasting is a huge challenge and at most times mixed with complications.

The former Director of the Fiji Metrological Services, Rajendra Prasad said forecasters try their best to lock in the correct report by looking at weather model predictions. But these models are not often accurate enough.

“It should be common knowledge that numerical weather prediction models do rather poorly in this part of the world compared to other tropical cyclone basins and so relying on them can be very risky,” said Prasad.

Giving an example of the recent Tropical Cyclone Keni, Prasad outlined how Fiji Met may have failed to forecast its correct track and impact areas.

“The models were bringing TC Keni very swiftly onto Fiji right from its formation stages. As a result, the initial prediction was for it to start affecting Fiji from Sunday, which was then changed to Monday and subsequently to Tuesday when it finally hit,” he said

“The initial model forecast was for its centre to pass significantly south of Kadavu, then close to Kadavu and later on even touching on southern Viti Levu, but it finally passed right over Kadavu,” he added.

Weather forecasts that are unable to precisely say where a severe weather system is heading causes confusion. And in this day and time of social media, panic is created when citizens read the wrong information from un-credited weather websites.

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Fiji unions triumph

Court favours airport workers’ plight

A bitter row between the management of Fiji’s Air Terminal Services (ATS) and its employees who were locked out of work for 35 days including Christmas and New Year ended last month with the court’s sympathy towards the workers. The Employment Relations Tribunal presided by Australian Andrew See ordered ATS management to allow the workers back to work and to pay them for the days they were locked out.

About 70 staff on shift on Saturday, 16 December left their stations to attend a three-hour shareholders meeting. When they returned to work, the gate was locked and the security had instructions from management not to let anyone back in.

ATS board chair Riyaz Khaiyum and CEO Hare Mani claimed the workers went on strike and instructed HR manager Richard Donaldson to issue suspension letters to over 300 workers, including those not at work that day and those on leave. If they wanted their jobs back, they were told to sign a letter admitting their action was illegal and they could be further reprimanded.

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Get your priorities right, FRU told

OLYMPIC-winning coach Ben Ryan has expressed serious reservations on Fiji’s bid to host a leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series, saying the Fiji Rugby Union has its priorities misplaced. Ryan, who was a guest at the Mana Whey Coral Coast Sevens last month, declined his support for the bid when FRU approached him in August 2017, while FRU hopes its bid will meet World Rugby requirements when it is submitted by the end of this month.

In a lengthy post on his Facebook page, Ryan said he was not prepared to back the bid because it would have a negative effect on the success of the sevens team on the world stage itself.

He said it was a waste of money and he had serious doubts about the viability of a regular tournament being held in the country. “The overseas consultants asked for a budget of F$1m (US$499,000) just to put together the bid. That’s hugely excessive and a massive waste of money. What are they spending it all on?

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Personalities will clash as Fijians prepare to go to the ballot

THE personality of Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama ensured that his Fiji First party won an outright majority in the 2014 polls, but that could change come this year.

The four years has given opposition parties an opportunity to strongly challenge Fiji First policies under the 2013 Constitution, which could not be done in an era when Fiji was without a parliament and government ruled by decrees.

2018 will also see the return of former Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka to the political arena who is no doubt going to be very vocal against Bainimarama. There will be 51 seats to be contested with an expected 250 plus candidates to go on the ballot paper.

The three big names to watch out for in the 2018 elections will be Frank Bainimarama’s Fiji First, Sitiveni Rabuka’s SODELPA and Dr Biman Prasad’s National Federation Party. The single constituency electoral system, which played nicely with Bainimarama in 2014 because of his popularity, will also be tested in 2018.

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