Audit reveals $17,401 salary overpayment

The Ministry of Police overpaid the salaries of three employees by $17,401.45 tala according to an audit report by Controller and Auditor General, Fuimaono Afele Taimalelagi.

The overpayment was highlighted in the Ministry of Police Audit Report for the Financial Year 2015 to 2016. 

These overpayments included an overpaid resignation benefit of $137.53 tala, the overpayment of $1,139.14 for late cessation after resignation, and the overpayment of $16,124.78 to a former Commissioner of Police for resignation benefits paid out in 2014 that have not been recovered.

In response to the findings of the Audit Report, the Ministry acknowledged that the “necessary improvements have been noted to be made in our processes.” 

The Ministry said it recovered the overpayment of $148.53 however the overpayment of $1,139.14 was a posting error which will not be repeated.

In relation to the $16,124.78 payment, the Ministry clarified that it was resignation benefits and was approved by the Cabinet.

“Resignation benefits were paid according to the terms and conditions of former Commissioners contract FK(14)45 stated amounts that differed from Ministry calculations.”

In a separate audit for the same financial year, the Audit Report noted a utility expense overspending of $230,839.36 for electricity and $41,831.86 for telephone bills. 

The Auditor Fuimaono noted in his report noted that this was also the case in the previous financial year, where utility expenses for electricity and telephone calls were overspent within the financial year under audit as well as payments of utility expenses from the prior financial year.

However, the Ministry in its response defended its overspending on electricity, which it said it incurred from renovation and upgrading work to all outposts complex to put in place a healthy working environment for employees. 

“The establishment of Lotofaga outpost has also contributed to the high utilisation rate for electricity,” the Ministry stated in its response. “Installation of new air conditioners donated from the Small Islands Developing States conference for the Head Quarters and Outposts in both islands has resulted in an increase in electricity consumption.”

“In addition, there were outstanding invoices deferred from previous financial year to be paid in Financial Year (FY) 2014-2015.” 

In relation to the high telephone bills, the Ministry said this expenditure was incurred due to numerous cases being investigated by the Police, warranting the need for communication with victims, witnesses and defendants as well as in times of emergency. All Police officers were also contacted through their mobile phones for special operations, raids and investigations. 

“Our Ministry is providing a 24-hour service as our main core (duty) is to protect and serve the community to ensure safety and security. Payment of utilities from prior year is an ongoing issue with internal controls in place on usage,” the Ministry said.

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