21 Jun 2006

Fiji plan for political secretaries criticised

2:37 pm on 21 June 2006

Two former Fiji prime ministers have criticised a proposal by their current counterpart, Laisenia Qarase, to appoint political private secretaries to do constituency work for every minister at state expense.

The Fiji Times reports that at a cabinet meeting yesterday, ministers agreed with Mr Qarase that the proposal for the new posts be submitted to the Public Service Commission.

The newspaper says the special assistants would help ministers deal with constituents who seek their help and would cost the state over 385,000 US dollars in salaries alone.

Mr Qarase is quoted as saying this is clearly a need that ought to b provided.

But the former prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, says if people are to be better served, the privilege should be extended to all members of parliament and the 4,650-US dollar constituency allowance paid to each MP should be withdrawn.

The deposed prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, says the move is "absolutely irrational".

Mr Chaudhry says the bloated size of the cabinet is already a burden on taxpayers and ministers have civil servants who can handle matters that arise.