Former Fiji Sugar Corporation CEO paid over $840k says Minister

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An inquiry is expected to begin into the hefty salaries and allowances paid to former chief executives of Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC).

The Sugar Minister Charan Jeath Singh has revealed that former CEO’s of the Fiji Sugar Corporation were being paid up to $840,000 (US$420,000) per annum in salary and allowances.

He said it is even more outrageous that the Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption (FICAC) has taken more than three years to complete the investigation into abuse of office and corruption.

Singh said Abdul Khan, the former board member who advanced to CEO and Executive Chair of the FSC enjoyed a hefty salary package plus other benefits as high as $840,000(US$420,000) per annum while in the position for five years from 2011 until his resignation in 2016.

“The problem starts from the top of FSC. They were taking hefty salaries while the farmers were being given a hard time. Now when the allegation came that Abdul Khan and the previous CEOs were collecting big salary, everybody said no no it’s not true but now figures say for itself.”

He said for a company that is insolvent and merely keeping afloat on government-guaranteed loans and other government loans which have previously been written off, the former board must also be made to answer questions on how they allowed the FSC to be run irresponsibly with lavish expenditure without transparency and accountability of repeated loses year after year by its management.

“Abdul Khan and Graham Clark and others were paid so much that FSC technically could not afford and as of today, you see FSC is totally bankrupt.”

The Minister said having said that, there is no surprise that exorbitant salary package was approved or overlooked by a board whose later chairman Vishnu Mohan, also being the Chairman of the PSC himself was milking the cow and enjoying perks of taxpayer-funded luxury whilst living in Canada and getting paid locally for a number of years.

Additionally, he said it was under the Chairmanship of Vishnu Mohan that an expatriate was chosen for the top job at FSC in 2017 to further burden the corporation.

Singh said Graham Clark, the Zimbabwe-born CEO in his tenure from 2017-2021 benefited from a remuneration and allowance disbursement of $728,000 (US$364,000) per annum.

The Sugar Minister said under his leadership purchased 114 cane transporting trucks and mechanical harvesters and 30 tractors which are parked idle in off-season periods. An absolute waste and exploitation of desperate, much-needed funds.

The Minister also revealed that in extension to the luxurious salary, the position was another appointment of a Chief Operating Officer, Navin Chandra with a package and allowances exceeding $550,000 (US$275,000) per annum, Martin Welch- Advising Engineer was receiving $433,000 (US$216,500) per annum and Gavin Taylor- Field Extension Services was paid $335,000 (US$167,500) per annum.

He said it seems as if the FSC was an institution of personal growth and ambition.

As the Minister for Sugar, he has sounded an alarm and put out a notice to those who intend mischief to not mess with the industry and the farmers and expect a major refinement and subsequent revival of what was once Fiji’s proud revenue earner.

Minister Singh said the former board of the Fiji Sugar Corporation must be made to answer questions on how they allowed the FSC to run irresponsibly with lavish expenditure without transparency and accountability.

“What we going to be doing is to identify board members who were there, who appointed them and who had agreed to these type of salaries. I know the current CEO is doing a good job and whether his salary should be $250,000 (US$125,000) or not is something that we will look at the industry structure and see what the CEO’s get. But for certain Abdul Khan and Graham Clarke and others were paid so much that FSC technically could not afford and today the FSC is bankrupt.”

He said FSC owes $400 million (US$200 million) to the government.

Singh said FSC is technically bankrupt.

He said they will have to go back to Parliament to secure further guarantees to run operations at FSC.

“If we do not get the guarantee, the directors will not sign the accounts. We have two years of accounts which are ready, 2020 and 2021. We have to go to the government, we have to go to Parliament that government will continue guarantee, then only the directors will sign the accounts. After the signing of the accounts then we will have the AGM and then continue the business of FSC.”

Singh said FSC does not have money yet the former Chief Executives were getting hefty salaries and allowances.

“I am not sure if Bainimarama (formmer PM) himself had ever known how much these people were collecting in terms of salaries and allowances. This is only the basic. The amount of trips they were making over the years, the amount of per diems they have been collecting over the years, it was huge.”

Singh said he feels sorry for the farmers who were taken for a ride.

He has assured farmers that the current chief executive, Bhan Singh salary is in line and is not overpaid.

Sing said that the current CEO is experienced as he has worked in the four sugar mills as well.

SOURCE: FBC NEWS/PACNEWS