Tenders Board approval forged, Parliament told

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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CHIEF AUDITOR: Fuimaono Camillo Afele and SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT: Leaupepe Tole’afoa Fa’afisi.

CHIEF AUDITOR: Fuimaono Camillo Afele and SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT: Leaupepe Tole’afoa Fa’afisi.

A Government official produced falsified letters of approval by the Tenders Board to make a payment worth $212,000 to suppliers for services and goods that had not been supplied.

The discovery is among a long list of “irregularities” uncovered by Controller and Chief Auditor, Fuimaono Camillo Afele, and the Audit Office, according to their report to Parliament.

A copy of the 2013-2014 report, submitted to the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Tole’afoa Fa’afisi, on 16 December 2016, has been made available online by the Samoa Audit Office*.

According to the report, the Audit Office found the forging of the Tenders Board approval at the Ministry of Health. 

The report does not name the employee and who the suppliers are.

“The I.A.I.D. conducted an investigation on 17 June 2014, into payment vouchers submitted to the Accounts Division of M.O.F. on 13 June 2014 by the M.O.H. in relation to sums payable to two suppliers for $77,000 and to Supplier 2 for $135,000,” the report reads. 

“The former Procurement Specialist produced falsified letters of approval by the Tenders Board to support payments and forged signatures shown on the letters. Services and goods involved have not been provided by the two suppliers.” 

When the matter surfaced and was investigated, the Procurement Specialist resigned from her position on 30 June 2014.

 “This case was referred to the Public Service Commission and the Ministry of Police for further investigation under their respective laws,” the report continues. 

“Various recommendations were made by M.O.F. to ensure proper systems of internal controls are in place and complied with to avoid any future misrepresentation and discrepancies of a similar incident in the future.” 

The irregularities report issued by the Samoa Audit Office for 2014, 2015 and 2016 highlights a number of odd expenses. The most common one is the amount of monies spent on fixing damaged government vehicles.

The report also questions trips taken by Government officials and monies paid to them. 

Signed by the Controller and Auditor General, Fuimaono Camillo Afele, Ministries and Parliamentary and Constitutional Offices are required to report to the Audit Office any irregularities that occur within their entities related to cash, stores or other assets.  

“The Ministry of Finance (M.O.F.), through its Internal Audit and Investigations Division (I.A.I.D.), carries out investigations of these irregularities reported.

“Irregularities are classified in our reports to Parliament into three categories or types.”  

These are vehicle parts and repairs, loss and theft of public property and misappropriation of public funds.   

“Irregularity reports must be submitted immediately after the incident to which they relate and must not be delayed pending the completion of any departmental, Ministry or Police investigation as per treasury instructions.” 

Another issue highlighted in the report is a “Breach of the Code of Conduct” by a Ministry of Revenue employee in 2014. 

“A Ministry employee issued a false receipt to a taxpayer for payment of liquor license and spent the money for personal use. The matter was also reported to the Ministry of Police for further investigation.

“The M.O.R. reported that the responsible employee was terminated from service. No investigation was undertaken by M.O.F.” 

Another case of misappropriation of Public Funds was during a surprise spot check in July 2015.

“During the surprise visit, the Senior Accounts Officer arrived with the key, the auditor noticed loose cash in the drawer, and the Senior Accounts officer took out some cash from an envelope to balance the petty cash. 

“The Auditor approached the A.C.E.O. of the Corporate Services requesting to check the petty cash again together with an A.A. (Accountable Advance) that was also on hand at the time. Both the petty cash and the A.A. were short. The Senior Accounts Officer stated in an interview that she had used the petty cash and the A.A. for her personal commitments with the intention to recover it on that same day from a personal loan.

“All the shortages were recovered from her loan on Monday 3 August 2015.

“The decision was to be reported to the M.O.F. to await a final decision from the C.E.O. upon his return from an official travel. The cash box for the petty cash and A.A. were locked in the A.C.E.O. of the Corporate Services room.” 

Another issue indicated in the Irregularities Report was the invalid quotation forged by the Ministry of Police, Procurement Officer to satisfy the Government of Samoa Procurement Process requirement for three written quotes for the procurement of office stationery for the traffic division.

“The officer was given the task of obtaining three written quotes for the supply of stationeries.  

“Only one supplier provided a written quote and this supplier was selected to supply stationeries for the Traffic Division. 

“There were no written quotes received from two other suppliers to satisfy the procurement process requirement. 

“A written quotation from another supplier was later received, however this second supplier never replied to the officer’s email despite several follow-up attempts by phone. She then created an invalid quote for the second supplier to satisfy the procurement process requirements so that the payment gets to the Accounts Division of M.O.F. before the deadline of the cutoff date for the submission of payments to process for the financial year ended 30 June 2015. 

“The M.O.F. recommended that M.O.P. should conduct a refresher course on the requirements of the Treasury Instruction 2013, Code of Conduct under the P.S.C. Act 2004 and Accounting Manual for management and all staff that are involved in the procurement process. 

“All the officers responsible for this matter should be warned for non-compliance with the Procurement Guiding Principles as set out in Part K.2.1 (1) of the Treasury Instructions 2013. 

“A responsible procurement officer should also be given an official warning for breaching the procurement process,” says the report. 

Another invalid quote matter was reported in August 2015. 

“The issue of the invalid quote was discovered by the Audit Office during their pre-audit of payments at M.O.F.

“Audit Office requested an I.R. from M.W.C.S.D. for an investigation be carried out. 

“The supplier quote produced by M.W.C.S.D. was invalid. The Principal Officer for the Division for Youth was the person that produced this invalid quote; she created the quote for the supplier to satisfy the procurement process requirements of the Government of Samoa.” 

The Irregularities Report noted the principal had breached the Government’s Procurement Guiding Principles under PartK.2.1(1) of the Treasury Instructions 2013. She is liable and may be charged under P.F.M.A. Act 2011, P.S.C. Act 2004 (P.S.C. Code of Conduct) and Crimes Act 2013 relating to forgery and false documents.

The A.C.E.O. – Division of Women did not exercise proper check of the three written quotes, which would have identified the invalid quote for Maxkar Ltd. This is a breach of Part C.A. (e) of the Treasury Instructions 2013, which relates to duties of an Accountable Officer, says the Irregularities Report. 

 

*UPDATE 

This story titled “Tenders Board approval forged, Parliament told” published on the front page today originally said the report was leaked to the Samoa Observer. This needs to be clarified. Hard copies of the report were leaked to the Samoa Observer from a source. After the paper was printed today, it has been brought to our attention that the reports on the irregularities from the Audit Office have been uploaded onto their website, www.audit.gov.ws, where members of the public can access them.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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