New probe launched into Regulator funds

The Ministry of Finance (M.O.F.) will launch a fresh audit investigation into the alleged misuse of public funds for the Office of the Regulator. 

The move follows a Public Service Commission (P.S.C.)  investigation into the recently resigned Regulator; Lefaoali’i Unutoa Auelua-Fonoti. She was charged with 14 P.S.C. charges including the alleged breached of the Public Service Code of Conduct by misusing public resources. 

That investigation led the Commission to recommend that the senior public servant be axed by Cabinet, before she ultimately tendered her resignation last month. 

The new M.O.F. investigation was confirmed by the Ministry of Finance Chief Executive Officer, Leasiosiofa’asisina Oscar Malielegaoi, in response to questions from the Samoa Observer. 

“Irregularities concerning the misuse of public monies will be investigated by M.o.F. as per Government [...] policies and guidelines,” said Leaisiosio. 

“[And] with the P.S.C. inquest now completed for [the Office of the Regulator (O.O.T.R.)], we will request the release of the P.S.C. Report and files for our Internal Audit Division's investigation.”

The Ministry chief added that the work should start immediately following their investigation into recent damages and loss of Government properties and assets by fire at the O.O.T.R.

Texts and calls to Lefaoalii were not responded to as of press time. 

Last Thursday, Lefaoalii, in a press statement, confirmed that she had tendered her resignation following advice from her family and friends. 

According to the P.S.C. charge sheet, obtained by the Weekend Observer, the Regulator was charged with having “failed to discharge [her] duties”.

The alleged misuse of public money included a payment for a hotel room and dinner. 

According to the P.S.C. charges, on 9 June, 2019 the Regulator allegedly used approved funds from her office to settle an invoice at the Tanoa Hotel for a friend’s room and dinner. 

The P.S.C. investigation centred on alleged breaches of sections 17 and 19 of the Public Service Act 2004. 

The Commission claimed that O.O.T.R. funds were used to pay for a room and dinner, which had been said to have been a working dinner with her counterpart in American Samoa. 

The payment is alleged to include alcoholic beverages valued at $90 tala and dinner for two valued at $58 tala. 

“The O.O.T.R. continues to be at a loss of the said amount that was paid to the Hotel to settle [the] invoice 29335E.

“The accuracy and integrity of the O.O.T.R. records as to the purpose and nature of any payment from the O.O.T.R. funds or treasury funds are essential for accountability and audit purposes.”




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