Audit report mystery in World Bank-funded project

It remains unknown if action has been taken by the relevant authorities following the findings of an audit report, which revealed alleged malpractice and violations of the terms of a grant in a US$16.16 million (WST40 million) World Bank-funded project.

The Auditors Report into the Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project for the period July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018 uncovered what the auditors have described as “high risk” practices.

The audit report categorised the project high risk, noting that from their review and analysis of the matching grant program, they found “some highly important misleading information” where a payout was made under this project.   

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“This misleading information was verified and confirmed by our site visit in Savaii. The monitoring of this project is extremely terrible, conveyed for releasing of last tranche, but the project is incomplete or it does not exist. 

“Misleading information of photos on the files to release payments is very unacceptable practice and a direct violation of grant terms,” stated the audit report.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) Chief Executive Officer, Tilafono David Hunter, has not responded to telephone calls or emails that were made and sent by the Samoa Observer seeking his comment. Attempts to get a comment from the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao’o Natanielu, were also unsuccessful. 

According to the project details – which are provided on the World Bank website – the aim of the project was to support Samoan fruit and vegetable growers and livestock producers to improve their productivity and take advantage of market opportunities. It was approved in March 2012 and was scheduled to close in December last year. The total cost of the project was US$16.16 million with the World Bank committing US$8 million. The project had three components: livestock production and marketing; fruit and vegetable production and marketing and; institutional strengthening.

It is not known if the balance of the project’s total cost was to be met by the Samoa Government. 

Checks by this newspaper showed that a MAF opened a Facebook page in 2014, which appeared to be dedicated to providing updates on the project. However, the page only had five photographs uploaded with the last post dated March 12, 2014. The photographs showed consultations with villagers and presentations by officials, but no further information was provided.

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