2 May 2002

Charges have been laid against five Fiji agriculture ministry officials

7:36 am on 2 May 2002

Fiji's public service commission has laid charges against five senior officials of the ministry of agriculture who have been suspended in connection with the 13 million US dollar farming assistance scam.

The five are the head of the ministry, Peniasi Kunatuba, his two deputies, Ken Cokanasiga and Samisoni Ulitu and two others.

Details of the charges have not been revealed but the secretary of the PSC, Ratu Tui Cavulati, says they relate to breaches of the Public Service Act and the Public Service Code of Conduct.

The charges are based on the report of the auditor general into the scam which included the payment of highly inflated prices for farm implements and other equipment and their distribution outside the guidelines laid down.

The officials will remain suspended on full pay until disciplinary measures are taken.

Ratu Tui says police investigations into the five are seperate and any criminal charges will depend on their outcome.