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Fiji: PM Qarase Spends $79,000 To Publish Speeches

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by Ruci Mafi

SUVA (The Fiji Times/Pacific Media Watch): Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase spent more than F$79,000 to publish his speeches in local newspapers last year, reports The Fiji Times.

And while Qarase's office said that only speeches of national interest would be advertised, Auditor-General Eroni Vatuloka said some speeches were not in the public interest.

"One such example is the Prime Minister's speech to a youth group of Muana village in Rewa that was published in The Fiji Times on July 12 last year at a cost of $360," Vatuloka said.

He said it was disturbing that the permanent secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, Jioji Kotobalavu, said in a letter to the Public Service Commission was not guided by costs but by the wide circulation of the medium used.

"The office should be reminded that cost should always be considered in the utilisation of public funds," Vatuloka said.

He recommended that when using public funds, the Prime Minister's Office should always consider costs when buying goods and services.

Defending its move, the PM's Office said it should be noted that speeches covering important state policy statements were advertised.

"Secondly, we make use of The Fiji Times in most cases largely because it has the highest daily circulation of more than 40,000 on peak days.

"Furthermore, The Fiji Times has offered a special concession of $1100 as compared to $1056 in the Daily Post and Fiji Sun," the Prime Minister's Office said.

It said that with its daily circulation of 44,000 on peak days at the special rate, advertising in The Fiji Times was better value for money.

Qarase's office said the advertisements were important to the general public, donor governments and potential investors to have direct access to the policy statements.



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