Prasad challenges $1m for Fiji’s ‘questionable’ PR firm Qorvis

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National Federation Party leader Dr Biman Prasad is shocked by Media Industry Development Authority chair Ashwin Raj's suggestions about regulating social media on national TV earlier this month. Image: Jona Konataci/Fiji Times

By Nasik Swami in Suva

The Fiji government has called for expressions of interest from public relations firms since the contract for the US-based Qorvis Communications, which handles the state’s public relations, is nearing expiry.

Economy Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told Parliament this following a motion by National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad to remove the F$1 million allocation in the 2016-2017 National Budget for the public relations firm.

Professor Prasad told Parliament this week that the nature of the firm itself was questionable.

“They [Qorvis Communications] have worked with countries, with regimes, which have tried very hard to hide information which have used propaganda,” he said.

“I think some of the things which we see in this country today and some coming from the government, is actually a reflection of the kind of work, the kind of advice that this PR firm is giving to the government,” he said.

Dr Prasad said while the $1 million allocation would appear to be a small amount, it was an unnecessary expenditure since the government had only allocated $300,000 for kidney dialysis.

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“I call upon the government to do away with this PR firm.

“They have the whole Communication Ministry, they have an Information Department, government has all the resources to take its activities — its PR — whatever they do more than they should be doing and so I don’t understand why they need this firm anymore.”

Telling government stories
Sayed-Khaiyum said a PR firm was needed to tell government’s stories not only in the local media, but internationally as well.

“We need our stories to be told in The New York Times, Huffington Post, The Guardian and that obviously requires people who operate in that space.

“We need our stories picked up by not just only the Australian and New Zealand media.

“We need our stories told in other parts of the world where they help us to be able to spread our public relations in all aspects of government and investment opportunities.”

He said in this light it was a very small price to pay.

“A lot of companies have applied, including Qorvis itself. The contract is expiring and we will then be able to either renew the contract or select someone else, or maybe select a panel of people.”

Nasik Swami is a Fiji Times reporter

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