Olota Rokovunisei and Foana Nemani charged on strength of confidential FNPF Report and not through FICAC investigation
FNPF property investment manager Carl Mar to Foana Nemani in relation to proposed sale price of property by Tappoos: “They are thinking of $470,000 but I think I can negotiate to get it between $400,000 & $450,000.”
By VICTOR LAL
During the course of its investigation into the activities of Penina Ltd, a joint venture between FNFP and the Tappos to build Tappoocity, other issues surface. Ernst and Young identified an email exchange between Foana Nemani, the then Deputy CEO of FNPF and Carl Mar, the Fund’s property investment manager, on 9 August 2006 regarding the apparent sale of a property owned by Tappoos located at “Ragg Avenue (next to Joes Farm)’ for the price of $470,000.
In one e-mail, Mar informed Nemani that he had asked Tappoos to hold the property for her, stating in relation to the proposed sale price of the property: “They are thinking of $470,000 but I think I can negotiate to get it between $400,000 & $450,000.” In its Report, E & R stated that, “It is unknown whether Nemani has purchased this property”. Coupfourpointfive did not have time to investigate the ownership of the property.
In an earlier series, we noted that Ernst and Young Report had expressed disquiet that FNFP’s former Property Investment manager, Mar, on resigning from his position, had been retained by Tappoos and FNPF subsidiaries to act as a client representative of Penina Ltd and Grand Pacific Holdings Ltd. After all, Mar had negotiated contract terms with Tappoos on behalf on FNPF’s investment arm FIL.
A file note regarding the Tappoocity Project indicated that general agreement regarding the terms of the agreement was reached on 29 July 2003 between Kanti Tappoo and Mar, including that the value attributed to Tappoos land would be its market value sum of $3,250,000 and the lease term to be 25 + 25 with first rent set at 8& of the Project cost fixed for 15 years.
Mar resigned from FNPF on 31 October 2006 to open his own consultancy company. He had been retained by Penina Ltd to act as a client representative and/or project manager and described his position as Client Rep/Project Manager of Penina Ltd (and GPHL).
The negotiation of the terms of Mar’s contract with Penina was delegated to Vinod Tappoo, who states his nationality as Australian in Neo Fiji Ltd, the Tappoo family construction company which got the tender to build Tappoocity.
Compliance with investment procedure
In FNFP Board Paper No.1707 dated 19 June 2005, Rokovunisei, the then general manager of FNPF stated that: “The development will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the Fund’s property portfolio resulting in an increase in its value form the current level of $69m to $89m, thus reflecting a growth in the asset class from its current level of 2.76% to 3.56%. In addition, it will also greatly assist the Fund in achieving the recommendations of the William Mercer Investment Policy Statement (IPS) adopted by the Board in October 2000, to grow its direct property portfolio to a benchmark of 6% of total investments.”
In FNFP Board Paper No 1948 dated 30 November 2005, Rokovunisei addressed the requirements of Section 7 of the FNFP Act in relation to the Tappoocity Project. In relation to Rokovunisei’s consideration of the section 7 requirements, E & Y noted that his responses were brief and lacking in any significant detail.
Further, (1) The likely income return of the Project is not addressed in terms of its quantum, including the effect of Project cost revisions affecting this income or the fact that income in the form of rent is fixed on terms which were considered by at least one FNPF Board member as favourable to the Tenant Tappoos; (2) Any risks associated with the Project were not addressed, in circumstances where this was the first investment of this kind by FIL (FNPF Investment Ltd), due to the justification that FIL is the major shareholder in the Project. The rationale upon which this fact averts the need to address any risk is not clear.
Nemani, Rokovunisei and E & Y Report Findings
Coupfourpointfive can reveal that Rokovunisei and Nemani were not charged by FICAC lawyer Paul Madigan, a crony of the illegal A-G Khaiyum and now a High Court judge, on the strength of its own investigations, but on the basis of the findings of the 2007 Report in FNPF.
We presume it is another reason why the illegal A-G has not released the Report, claiming it is confidential. In order to make out that all the thousands of dollars that he paid out to Madigan (we have no figures at all because of the imposed dictatorship) during his time as FICAC prosecutor was bearing fruit, the public of Fiji are under the illusion that FICAC investigation resulted in the corruption charges.
Fraud by Public Officers, as reported by FICAC: “Rokovunisei and Nemani had between July and September of 2006, during their employment as General Manager and Deputy General Manager of FNPF, had authorized payments for responsibility allowance to each other for the sum of $33,333.00 and $35,911.00 respectively without authorization.” The two have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In their ‘Operation Investigation’ component of the Report, E & Y noted as follows: “These inquiries were deemed relevant following the discovery of certain irregularities alleged to have involved the former CEO, Olota Tulumani Rokovunisei, and former DGM, Nemani.”
Rokovunisei and Nemani were suspended pending the resolution of matters in respect of the allegations of misconduct made against them and, later, the subject of a formal Internal Audit investigation and review.
The key allegations were as follows: Abuse of staff loan entitlements with respect to both the former CEO and the former DGM; Abuse of travel and other general expenses and allowance with respect to the former CEO and the former DGM; Related-party transactions and other general expenses and allowance with respect to the former CEO and former DGM; Retention of Directors fees contrary to policy and directive with respect to the former CEO; An unusual payment, in cash, to the former DGM, in the amount of $9,200 apparently concerned with disaster recovery preparations; and Unauthorised per diem payments made to the former CEO. In short, without going into details, it was alleged that the amount totalled around $35,000, the subject of charges.
Other issues identified by the Report involved conflict of interest, in that, payments were made to Edge Consultancy Ltd for the period from 21 July 2005 to 31 August 2005. It was subsequently determined that the former DGM Nemani was a Director and had an ownership interest in Edge Consulting during the relevant period.
What about the Tappoos, Carl Mar, and Others?
And, yet, the illegal A-G did not call on FICAC to act on the section on Penina Ltd and Neo Fiji Ltd, where E & Y Report concluded that the independence in the appointment of Neo Fiji Ltd as construction contractor appeared questionable. It was of even greater concern, however, that Neo Fiji Ltd was allowed to retain the contract after subsequently revising its costs estimate some six months after winning the contract. The Report claimed that Tappoos “influenced the tender process”. What about conflict of interest?
And, now, there is confusion about the nationality of Vinod and Suresh Tappoo – whether they are Australians or Fiji Islanders? If they are Australians, did they apply for investor permits? What was written on the FNPF application when they applied for the loan? Did FNPF know if they were locals or foreign investors? Khaiyum knew, at least, that Suresh Tappoo was an Australian citizen, for he had sold through his Latifa Investments Ltd his Berry Road property to Bright Star Investments, formed by the Tappoos in 2005, around the same time as Khaiyum formed Latifa Investments Ltd with his mother.
What about Pardeep Patel of Deloitte, Tappoos and Conflict of Interest in the Tappoocity Project? In May, Khaiyum had boasted a team of forensic accountants from the Australian branch of international firm Deloitte were in Fiji investigating the controversial past FNPF deals. According to him, the Deloitte team had been brought in by the current FNFP Board to investigate without fear or favour. Oh, really? What about the Ernst and Young Report, for which millions was paid in fees?
MORE TO COME