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Funds used to buy beer and cigarettes, Audit uncovers

An educational programme initiated to promote culture and tradition in schools has been placed under the microscope by the Audit Office after it uncovered funds being used to purchase cigarettes, alcohol and to pay for a function. 

The Samoa Ne’i Galo Annual Festival, spearheaded by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (ME.S.C.) is a platform for young people to engage in traditional and modern cultural expression. 

However, in the Operations of the Samoa Audit Office report to M.E.S.C. Financial Year audited 30 June 2017, it noted deficiencies in the Samoa Ne’i Galo funding. 

According to the Audit Office, the event which relies heavily on sponsorship sought from local business community, had its remaining funds used for a Committee’s function after the festival. 

The report did not specify how much funding was involved but it said not all donations had been recorded. 

“There was no request made to the M.O.F. [Ministry of Finance] for the creation of a special purpose account for this project,” the Audit Office reported after a spot check was done.

It also raised issues with the absent of a formal policy or guideline in place to govern the event's operation. 

“Not all monetary and in-kind donations received were receipted in an official receipt book or properly disclosed according to the financial report submitted," says the report. 

“Funds were used to purchase cigarettes, beer and alcohol. Remaining funds were spent for the committee's function after the festival.”

An email was sent on Thursday to the M.E.S.C. Chief Executive Officer, Afamasaga Dr. Karoline Fuatai-Afamasaga with the Assistant C.E.O. Papalii Peone Fuimaono Solomona who is leading the Culture division. 

In response, Papali’i acknowledged the queries relating to the festival. 

She said the C.E.O. who was on leave on Thursday will provide response on Friday. 

No other response has been received since.

In the meantime, the investigation from the Audit Office also found that not all minutes of meetings held for the event were submitted for verification. 

Furthermore, meeting minutes submitted were not signed to confirm its accuracy and truthfulness of matters discussed.

A Management response from M.E.S.C. in the report says, the Ministry will improve on cash management of funds including receipting, records of meetings and accurate preparations of acquittals for expenditures. 

“The Ministry is also developing guidelines to govern the operations for these events,” says the Management response. 

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