Minister still unclear about $87.6 million debt

The Government is yet to clear the air on a $87.6 million outstanding debt that the Ministry for Revenue incurred and was cited by Ministry of Finance audit reports. 

Minister for Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, was unclear when approached and asked to comment by the Samoa Observer.

“I am not sure and I will call the Chief Executive Officer to inquire about this,” he said and added that the debt was incurred before he was appointed the Minister.

The Public Account Management Audit report for 2014-2015 financial years indicates that the Ministry of Revenue had an outstanding debt of $87.6 million. The same debt was disclosed by the Ministry of Finance a year later, as part of the Government’s response to the Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee’s Report, for Financial Years 2015-2016.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Tialavea said: “I have no clue whether this is a debt or uncollected revenues, as this were accumulated before I came on board (as Minister).”

When he was asked why he did not get an update from his C.E.O. a fortnight ago when the story first broke, he said: “I am busy and I have other pertinent tasks and did not have time to look into this.”

The Ministry for Revenue Chief Executive Officer, Avalisa Viali Fautua’ali’i, was approached earlier by this newspaper but she has refused to comment.

“Regret the delay in replying but please be advised that I cannot make comments yet on this report as I’m told by the Legislative Assembly that it has yet to be discussed and endorsed by the Parliament."

“Until Parliament endorses it as a public document, I regret to advise that I will not be providing any comments on it,” she said back then. 

The debt in question was also cited in a report by the Ministry of Finance, as part of the Government’s response to the Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee’s Report 2015-2016. The report stated that the Ministry would try to account for this “outstanding”.

“We (Ministry of Finance) disclosed the Ministry for Revenue’s outstanding debt of $87.6 million. We strive to account this outstanding on the Government System (Finance One), in the future Public Accounts Finance One is the Government of Samoa Financial and Payroll and Human Resource Management Information System)."

“There is work that needed to be done to refine and confirm the balance of this unrecorded debt before we can include it in the overall government ministries receivables,” stated the Ministry.

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