Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has appealed to Chief Executive Officers of Government entities to take on the recommendations of the Audit Office.
He was responding to questions from the media following extensive coverage in the Samoa Observer in recent weeks on the findings of the Controller and Chief Auditor’s report for 2014 and 2015 on the accounts of various government agencies.
“The Government strongly enforces to the C.E.O's that whatever reports coming from the Auditors it must be adhered and should be thoroughly reviewed and make the necessary corrections,” Tuilaepa said.
“Audit reports since Samoa became Independent have always revealed discrepancies within Ministries and that is their duty, to warn the C.E.O. who is not following finance policies.”
The Prime Minister added that some of the discrepancies highlighted occur at the time of the church annual taulaga (offering) when the expectation is high on people who work to provide money.
“Some parents are keen to have at least $10,000 for the taulaga so in the end the children will steal.”
Tuilaepa said the purpose of the audits is to reveal discrepancies within Ministries; hence the Government building the capacity of the Audit Office as it plays a vital role in governance.
He said he has not seen the Auditors Report as it was submitted directly to Parliament.
He also discussed a previous Audit report submitted to Parliament by the former Auditor, where a Commission of Inquiry was established to review it.
The Chairman of the Finance Committee at that time was implicated in the report because he owed money to the Government, Tuilaepa said.
“Me and Tofilau (Eti Alesana) at the time felt the report wouldn’t be thoroughly reviewed given the conflict of interest as the Chairman was implicated in the audit report.”
Fast forward to today, Tuilaepa said issues highlighted in the Audit reports are nothing new.
He added that there have been instances in the past where the services of senior Government officials were terminated for stealing from the Government.
“When I first started at the Ministry of Finance, at the time when the person overseeing payroll was caught stealing, he was criminally charged and was jailed as a result."
“When I was the C.E.O. of Finance, a senior officer was implicated in misappropriation of finances for payroll."
“I gave this person the ultimatum and that within eight hours he must replenish the money he took which was in the amount of $7,000 if not, he will be turned over to the authorities. The money was repaid before 4pm that same day."
“In the end that Senior Officer was not reported to the Police but was terminated and the letter of termination was sent to P.S.C. to be stored in his files, to assure he will not work for the Government again,” Tuilaepa said.
The Prime Minister also spoke of two senior finance officers who clocked in for work but were drinking at a bar.
Their services were later terminated as they were too drunk to work. What made it worse was that they also clocked in to claim overtime, Tuilaepa said.