Surprised audit uncovers dishonesty

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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MINISTER OF REVENUE: Tialavea Tionisio Hunt.

MINISTER OF REVENUE: Tialavea Tionisio Hunt.

The “dishonesty” of some businesses has sparked an unexpected audit of their financial statements.

 “One company filed for losses yet we uncovered their taxes amounted to millions. This was very dishonest.” 

The revelation was made by the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, in response to questions from the Samoa Observer.

The move to conduct the audit follows suspicions the businesses were being dishonest. 

“Some companies filed losses year after year,” he said. 

“No company can file losses for several years yet continue to open for business. It does not make any sense at all.” 

According to the Minister, one company filed losses on their tax forms from 2011 to 2016. 

“There’s something wrong with you, why are you running your business at a loss. That was my first observation when I looked at tax forms that said losses for five years straight.”

The Minister said when they decided to audit the companies, what they found was alarming.

 “We audited them and found they were supposed to pay millions of dollars in taxes, for one year.” 

The Minister said that so far, they have audited two companies. He warns they will not stop there. He said the biggest challenge in their line of work is the Samoan way of life.

“Our culture and traditions make our job very difficult. This is Samoa we all know each other. 

“There’ s a conflict of interest almost every corner we take. The agents somehow will have a connection to an employee of the company being audited, or the owner. 

“It’s not an easy job, with our culture involved, its really hard. People ask us all the time, where’s the respect (ava fatafata)? But we are just doing our job.” 

When it comes to taxes, the Minister said the Samoan culture does not come into play. 

“Because if we allow our culture to run its course then we won't be able to do our job.” 

He said their “calling” to be tax collectors comes at a price. 

“We are the most hated people out there but we continue to do our job.”

One of issues for the Ministry of Revenue is staff shortage.

Tialavea made it clear their Ministry is looking at auditing all the businesses in Samoa and Savai’i. 

The Minister was unable to provide further information on the audited companies, noting the information will have to come from the Customs C.E.O. 

“I don’t have access to the confidential information,” he said. “That authority was taken away from the Minister in 2012. 

“I’m not sure why that occurred as it wasn’t under my tenure. 

“All confidential information with our work goes to the C.E.O. Just as well, the authority to order the audit, that’s all under the jurisdiction of the C.E.O.” Tialavea concluded that his “direct order to the C.E.O is to use her power to audit all the businesses if that’s what it takes.”

 

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