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Don't use public funds for dinner, gifts: Audit Office

The Auditor General and Controller, Fuimaono Afele Taimalelagi, has cautioned Government Ministries against using public funds to make ministerial donations or pay for end-of-year dinners or gifts.

The Auditor raised his concerns in the Audit Report for Financial Year 2018-2019, which highlighted discrepancies discovered at the Samoa Post Limited [S.P.L.], during the Interim Audit for the period 1 July 2018 – 31 January 2019. 

“It was highlighted during our review of payment vouchers that were made for the purposes ministerial donations, end of year dinner and gifts,” the audit report stated.

“This is in contrary to FK (13)31. Audit recommends that such payments be reviewed in compliance with policies in place.” 

In response to the concerns highlighted by the audit report, the S.P.L. management agreed that they will work on improving their management of public funds.

The Auditor also uncovered a case of misappropriation of funds for personal use by a staff member in Savai’i. 

“Audit recommends that a review of the banking procedure be conducted [for Savai’i branches because of its remote location] for improvement to prevent and discourage such incidence from happening again.” 

In response, the “management agrees and will work on improving, and audit will follow up,” stated the audit report.

Another issue which the audit discovered and was a concern for the auditors was the misplacing of receipts, which they said was the reason for the variances found in the voucher for petty cash reimbursement. 

“Management is advised to be more diligent with their record keeping efforts. Management will work on improving.” 

An Audit Office investigation in the past found $25,000 Christmas gifts were given to a minister and board members of the Samoa Housing Corporation [S.H.C.]. 

That report, for the 2015 Financial Year, included the auditor's finding that the gifts were “quite excessive and contrary to the good governance and accountability objectives of governing legislation, as well and the general duty of care of board directors." 

Payments of that significance should have been approved by the Cabinet, the Auditor said. 

In response to the auditor’s concerns at the time, the S.H.C. stated that the Christmas gifts have been an ongoing tradition for the festive season. 

The auditor also uncovered what he described as “inappropriate expenses” funded from the budget of the Public Trust Office and the expenses include an end-of-year function that cost $6,000 as well as hampers for the Minister and members of the Board of Directors. 

The “inappropriate expenses” were highlighted in Fuimaono’s Interim Audit report for the Public Trust office for the period 1 July 2015 – 29 February 2016.

Relevant part of the report for the Samoa Port Limited is printed verbatim below. 

3.28 Samoa Post Limited Interim Audit for the period 1 July 2018 – 31 January 2019 

1. Misplaced receipts were the reason for variances found in the voucher for petty cash reimbursement. Management is advised to be more diligent with their record keeping efforts. Management will work on improving. 

2. It was highlighted during our review of payment vouchers that were made for the purposes ministerial donations, end of year dinner and gifts. This is in contrary to FK (13)31. Audit recommends that such payments be reviewed in compliance with policies in place. Management agrees will work on improving their management of funds. 

3. We noted some payment vouchers do not have complete supporting documents to substantiate amounts paid. Management will continue to improve and explained that some payments do not have receipts as in the case of ministerial donations. 

4. Audit found that there was delayed banking, as per agreed expectations for daily or weekly takings depending on location in Upolu or Savaii. Management also noted that there was a case of misappropriation for one of the locations in Savaii. Management will work on improving their practices. 

5. Audit was able to confirm a case of misappropriating funds for personal use by a staff member in Savaii. Audit recommends that a review of the banking procedure be conducted (Savaii branches because of its remote location) for improvement to prevent and discourage such incidence from happening again. Management agrees and will work on improving, and audit will follow up. 

6. Samoa Post works in partnership with other Corporations such as NPF and Bluesky, however these Contracts have not been reviewed and have since been expired. Audit recommends review and update of contracts and management agrees. 

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