Rabuka quizzes the vetting of contracts

Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka exits parliament after the Budget Debate in Suva. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

Who vetted the Fiji Airways contract with lenders and financiers.

Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka said this was a question that needed to be answered in light of statements made by airline managing director and CEO Andre Viljoen at the Nadi Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s recent business forum.

Mr Rabuka said, in fact, the comments made by Mr Viljoen raised a lot of questions.

Mr Viljoen had said “the complex binding agreements for leasing the new airbuses were like a noose that one could not wriggle out of and defaulting on a few lease payments could result in liquidation before you even blink.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an extraordinary event, and there are usually provisions in contracts of this nature for some relief or some kind of arrangement to the benefit of both parties,” said Mr Rabuka.

“The question then arises, who vetted the contract and was the interest of the nation considered paramount in terms of sovereign risk.

“If not, why not. It seems to me that the contract was biased towards the lender and its associates, rather than the nation as a whole.”

Mr Rabuka said Fiji had borrowed and entered into binding agreements with both bilateral and multilateral institutions and by convention there was usually a very clear clause to address issues relating to an extraordinary event such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a standard in most contracts or agreements.

“With such undertaking, the insurance arrangements are critical in the protection of the interests of both parties.

“One wonders whether such arrangements were made to minimise the risk associated with such large undertaking.”

Fiji Airways said it would not respond to political statements.

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