How things might have been different if Parliament and the Government listened to Chief Auditor and O.P.C.

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 22 August 2018, 12:00AM

And so once more, the Controller and Chief Auditor, Fuimaono Camillo Afele, has made some pretty alarming discoveries in his latest report to Parliament to have been made public.

The report to Parliament for the financial years 2013 and 2014 paints quite a grim picture of wrongdoing, abuse of power and misuse of taxpayers monies in the public service. If you have been following the string of stories on the pages of your newspaper for the past few days, based on the Audit Office Reports, you will be quite alarmed. 

Why? It’s simple. 

Since the last Audit reports from 2010, 2011 and 2012 were uncovered and published on the pages of this newspaper several years ago, highlighting corrupt practices and many cases of mismanagement, fast forward to today, it appears nothing has changed. 

The Auditor’s report in question by the way was referred to the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C.) at the time. They carried out a thorough investigation and confirmed the claims made by the Auditor General. 

They went a step further to recommend that legal action be taken against public officials implicated in acts of collusion to defraud taxpayer’s monies and corrupt practices. We all know what happened. 

Parliament endorsed both Fuimaono and the O.P.C. reports. With an assurance that the recommendations would be considered, the reports were swiftly relegated to the cupboards where they are gathering dust. They are unlikely to see the light of day again, ever.

But here we are again in 2018 and yet Fuimaono’s latest report shows that things appear to have gotten worse. Not only in terms of misuse and abuse of public funds and positions of power, but they seem to be done with absolutely no regard to the rule of law, policies and what is right.

Take a quick look at some of the stories during the past few days. There is one about the Airport Authority “illegally” using public funds to host end-of-the-year Christmas and farewell parties. The Auditors said the decision was clearly a breach of public service rules.

 “These expenses were not budgeted and savings were used, reflecting inappropriate spending,” the report reads. “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.” In response to the Audit, the S.A.A. management said the Board of Directors approved it. 

Incredible, isn’t it?

Elsewhere, another story titled “$13 million investment lacked proper papers” continues the trend. This time the government body in question is the Accident Compensation Corporation (A.C.C.). The report found that investments in financial institutions by the Corporation to the tune of $13 million were done without supporting documentation.

 “All payments should be properly supported with relevant documents before general manager’s approval,” the report said. The audit also expressed concern at the lack of an investment plan, incomplete accountable forms and missing pages from a sub-receipt book and inconsistent sequencing. 

“The accountable forms register was incomplete. A risk of fraud exists where an incomplete receipt book is not physically returned or verified by the appropriate/responsible officer.” 

But that’s not all. Like the Airport Authority, the Audit Office also found that the Corporation used public monies to fund alcohol and food for a party. This misuse of public monies for merry-making appears quite standard practice across the board in most Government bodies. They seem to think that they can do whatever they like, whenever and wherever.

This is quite sad. 

But the rot is not confined to merry making and a few cold ones. It continues on to some public servants not doing their work costing taxpayers thousands of dollars, there are people abusing their positions by claiming what they are not entitled to and so forth. 

Many of these instances are done so blatantly too, and so prevalent.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are just some of the many shocking discoveries made by Chief Auditor Fuimaono and his team in their report. 

We will endevour to continue to shed light on these issues in the coming days. It is critical these issues are exposed and brought out in the open so stay tuned.

We’ve said it time and time again. Wrong doing, abuse of power and corruption in the public sector hurts ordinary people – among them some of most vulnerable and poorest people in this country. It denies members of the public what they are entitled to in terms of basic health care, education and utilities.

In fact, it is the stuff we believe is dragging this country down. Today in Samoa, we see so much hardship and poverty. It’s a dangerous combination breeding despicable violence in the home as people continue to wallow in pain and suffering. 

Now let’s think about this for a minute. What might have happened if Parliament and the Government did the right thing when Fuimaono and the O.P.C submitted their reports for the years 2010 and 2011? 

Could things have been different if the Government did not ignore the recommendations and did what it should have done then? 

Would we still be talking about corrupt practices and abuse of power and positions today if the right thing was done at the time? Who knows?

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 22 August 2018, 12:00AM
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