Police need to be involved in missing money case

By The Editorial Board 14 May 2024, 10:00AM

The investigation into the missing $175,000 given to Fa'asaleleaga No.2 has been ongoing for more than four months now. No one has been held accountable and the police are yet to get involved.

Member of Parliament Magele Sekati Fiaui has distanced himself from public attention and the government leaders are not talking about it. Things are being kept out of sight with the hope that it will stay out of people’s minds.

The facts cannot be changed. The Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development gave the money to the MP and the district council secretary, but this money never made it to the district council.

The district council found that the money was missing in November last year when they went to sign the second disbursement of $425,000.

According to the deputy chair of the council, they were asked by the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development about how they were going to use the money. He said they informed the government staff that they would first pay the district council staff who had been working without being paid for seven months.

He said this was when they were asked what had happened to the $150,000 released to the district chair and secretary. They said they had no idea such a payment had been made.

The MP who is the chair of the district office, has failed to provide a satisfactory explanation to the district council, leaving constituents frustrated.

It is very frustrating for the members of this constituency as they watch other constituencies get their share of the money and utilise it for the betterment of their lives. All they can do is watch.

No fingers are being pointed but the money was allegedly last seen with the member of parliament who is also the district chair and the district council secretary. The latter has been suspended and the MP in a recent social media post announced more money being released to the constituency.

Until now the MP failed to provide an answer that explains how the money was used or where the money has gone to but instead has shifted the blame to the secretary. If it was the doing of the secretary, why aren't the police involved?

A crime has been committed. This is a fact. In similar cases, we have seen former bank officers ending up in jail for stealing lesser amounts. The application of the law should be equal. It is either up to the government to make a report or the district council.

Perhaps a voter from the constituency will exercise his legal rights.

This whole act has robbed a constituency of projects that could have helped children with education, people with health, agriculture, income-earning investments and infrastructure development.

This question is not only about the missing money but the ripple effect that was caused by this act.

The Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development has to involve the police in this investigation or have the audit team from the Ministry of Finance do an investigation and hand the report to the police so the person responsible for using the money faces the full consequences, if the money has been embezzled.

The Prime Minister as the leader of the government and her party has to step in. She has to lay down rules that demand transparency and accountability from cabinet ministers and members of parliament.

If she has to suspend the MP while an investigation is on, she should take the step to prove that she is concerned about the lack of accountability. This should send a warning to others in a similar position.

Accountability and transparency are two important elements of good governance. Transparency is a powerful force that, when consistently applied, can help fight corruption, improve governance and promote accountability.

Accountability and transparency are not easily separated: they both encompass many of the same actions and these actions have to be employed by the government.

What happened in Savaii should have never happened if the systems of checks and balances were in place. Everyone, especially elected officials, have to be made accountable for their actions when it comes to public funds.

This is a sign for the government to set up an independent body that deals with corruption or staff the Office of Ombudsman with specialists who deal with corruption-related matters.

A crime has been committed, the money has not vanished into thin air. People need to face the consequences of their actions.

By The Editorial Board 14 May 2024, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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