Abuse exposed by the Auditor General, Parliament and those laws

The Controller and Auditor General, Fuimaono Afele Taimalelagi, and the Audit Office have been making some eye-opening discoveries lately that demand attention and scrutiny.

The discoveries include what they have repeatedly described as “inappropriate expenses”, which raises questions about spending habits in a number of Government bodies.

Some of these habits are borderline abuse of power and misuse of public resources, which should concern Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his Government of big laui’as a great deal.

Uncovered during their interim audit, these findings are contained in the Report of the Controller and Auditor General to the Legislative Assembly, which has been tabled in Parliament.

They certainly make for some interesting reading. Take for instance the story titled “Auditor uncovers inappropriate expenses at Public Trust Office” published last week.

According to the Audit Office, some of these “inappropriate expenses” include an end-of-year function that cost $6,000 hampers for the Minister and members of the Board of Directors as well as a gift of $2,000 for the Public Trustee while he was on sick leave.

The Auditor General also found other matters including the fact the Public Trustee had “no signed employment contract.”  He also questioned the decision to pay the Public Trustee’s leave in cash, when “this was not in compliance with government’s policies for contractual staff.” He added that the payment “without a legal binding document is illegal.”

 “The Public Trustee leave records indicates that he has taken 49 days as special leave, yet only 10 days were properly approved by Cabinet,” the Audit found. “The other 39 days special leave were utilized without approval from Cabinet, while the Public Trustee received his normal salary and with no signed employment contract in place.”

Now before we all go condemning the Public Trust Office here, it needs to be implicitly stated that what was uncovered is symptomatic of what is happening across the board in the public service.

In other words, the bad habits at the Public Trust office are quite common elsewhere, the Auditor found.

Consider the Samoa Ports Authority (S.P.A.) as another example. According to the report in question, the Auditor General found that the Authority spent $100,000 on four officials to take a research trip to Miami, U.S.A.

Here, read it for yourself: "The overspending was from official trips to Miami by the Chairman, General Manager, Manager Commercial & Marketing and the Principal Marketing Officer to promote Samoa as an attractive destination to the cruise liners conference held there.”

How does one justify such reckless spending? Would these people have spent such money so aimlessly as if it was theirs? The answer is no.  

And why was there a need for all senior officials to travel?

But then again, this is typical of what has been happening over the years in Government. It would be very interesting to see how much all the trips involving countless Government officials throughout the year cost?

We can haphazardly guess that the final figure would probably be in the millions, money that comes from the submissive taxpayers, including the poorest in this country.

Keep in mind that we’ve only looked at the bad habits in two public offices. In yesterday’s newspaper, the Land Transport Authority was singled out for taxpayers paying their gym membership fees among other perks.

We can go on but we’ll stop here.

The question is, what is being done about these instances of wrongdoing and abuse highlighted by the Controller and Auditor General?

What is the point of the Audit Office uncovering them only for these issues to remain in Parliamentary reports that gather dust at Mulinu’u and will eventually be forgotten?

Besides, what good is it to anyone that a number of these instances happened four or five years ago? Can the Government go back to find these people so they can recover these monies?

We acknowledge with gratitude the Controller and Auditor General and his office for highlighting these matters, which clearly exposes the rampant abuse of public monies and resources in the public service.

But the ball is now in Parliament’s court to do something about them.

What will they do now? Remember how they ignored the report from Office of Parliament Committee (O.P.C.) a few years ago? Are they going to do the same thing? In fact, does the O.P.C. still exist?

Let’s be realistic here, it’s an utter waste of time and money when these matters are only reported to Parliament ­– for the sake of going through the motions. We’ve seen this time and time again with this Government.

There needs to be definitive actions taken to ensure the abuse of power and wastage of public resources – identified by the Controller and Auditor General –are not repeated.

Otherwise, what is the point of having a Controller and Auditor General?  What is the point of having laws? And what is the point of having a Parliament?

What do you think? Don’t be shy to share your thoughts with us.

Have a wonderful Thursday Samoa, God bless!












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