S.A.A. Christmas parties illegal

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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Samoa Airport Authority.

Samoa Airport Authority. (Photo: Samoa Observer)

Samoa Airport Authority illegally used public funds to host end-of-the-year Christmas and farewell parties and paid $1000 to a staff member whose house was damaged by fire.

Controller and Chief Auditor, Fuimaono Camillo Afele, made these findings in his report on the financial affairs of the Samoa Airport Authority (S.A.A.) to Parliament for the financial year ending June 30, 2013.

Items purchased for the end-of-the-year Christmas and farewell parties included alcohol (beer and wine), food catering and the hiring of a band. A staff member, whose house was damaged by fire, was also paid $1000. But the audit report concludes that the expenses were not budgeted, compelling the S.A.A. to use its savings and breach government policy in the process.

“These expenses were not budgeted and savings were used, reflecting inappropriate spending. 

“The funding of these activities from public monies are strictly prohibited under government policies as stipulated in FK 08 Faapitoa (06) and was further stressed in FK (92)50 and Cabinet Circular dated November 27, 2009. 

“The Board of Directors had approved this activity to farewell retirees which had served the Authority for a long time,” stated the audit report.

The S.A.A. management, in response to the audit report findings, said it was aware of the government policy, but the decision to proceed ultimately came from the Board of Directors. 

The payment of $1000 to a staff member, after his house was damaged by fire, also came under scrutiny with the audit report stating that these types of payments were not covered under the S.A.A. policy. 

“This kind of support was not covered under any of the authority's policies hence the payment was approved and was based on the General Manager's discretion.”

The Board of Directors, according to the audit report, approved similar funding support for staff affected by the December 2012 Cyclone Evans. 

“The Board after Cyclone Evans approved similar donation to staff members whose families were severely affected by the cyclone. The intention of the board was to show compassion and to provide some form of humanitarian support to those staff who faced severe impact of disasters such as cyclones, tsunami and fire.”

In light of the concerns raised by the audit report, the S.A.A. gave an undertaking that it would incorporate the staff financial support mechanism into the authority’s administration manual.

“The audit observation was noted and S.A.A. committed to incorporation when the administration manual was reviewed later during the year of the audit. The S.A.A. Administration Manual had been reviewed and donation for staff under compassionate grounds is now included in the manual.”

A review of payments by the audit also uncovered the payment of a “donation” for one of the board director’s father’s funeral in December 2014. The audit report said such payments were prohibited under government policy, though it was noted that the Board of Directors approved the payment.

In order to cater for funerals connected to staff members, an amount of $500 has been incorporated into the S.A.A. Administration Manual, but the audit was still of the view that this policy was in breach of government policy.

“From our review of the Authority's Administration Manual, it was noted that donations to staff funerals were allowed. This provision of the Authority's policy contradicts with the government policy stipulated in FK 13(06). The S.A.A. agreed and noted the recommendation for adoption in the next review of the manual.” 

Other discrepancies picked out by the audit was the payment of directors’ fees in advance and not in line with the payment schedule, and the failure by staff to stamp and sign the payment vouchers.

“From our review of payment vouchers, there were vouchers being processed with no internal audit stamp or signature indicating no check conducted by the internal auditors.”

But the S.A.A. management, in response, said they had to often raise cheques for urgent payment, but there were no staff from the internal audit unit available to stamp and counter-sign the payment vouchers. 

The audit report also noted the lack of staff in the S.A.A. with the knowledge to do landing fee calculations, thus leading to the potential loss of revenue for the authority. Landing fees calculations are the responsibility of the team leader before receipting the stated amount.

“There was no team leader's signature found on some of the receipted landing fees calculations indicating such calculations were not properly checked and authorized. The recommendation was noted by S.A.A. for follow up and action.” 

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