Auditor uncovers false purchases, lunches by former Clerk
Falsifying purchases and misusing public money on lunches and dinners were at the centre of an investigation into the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly under the watch of former Clerk, Sefuiva Charlene Malele.
The investigation led the termination of her services.
The alleged breaches are outlined in the latest report on the Operations of the Samoa Audit Office by the Controller and Auditor-General, Fuimaono Afele Taimalelagi for the 2018-2019 Financial Year.
The report was recently tabled before Parliament.
It contains a comprehensive audit conducted on 31 August 2018 into the former Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Sefuiva.
In August 2018, the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Tole'afoa Fa’afisi confirmed the Audit Office had launched an investigation into Sefuiva's conduct over what he called “minor issues”.
At the time, Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms for Parliament, Luatalo Senima, confirmed the investigation and indicated that it was the result of an official complaint filed by a Parliamentary driver to the Office of the Prime Minister.
“The investigation was ordered by the Prime Minister,” said Luatalo.
In February, 2019 Sefuiva’s services were terminated as a result of the Audit investigation.
Calls to Sefuiva's mobile phone and a private message sent to her Facebook page were not answered as at press time Monday evening.
But the Auditor's report before Parliament had finally shed light of what had allegedly happened.
The Audit Report says: “An investigation into [the] misuse of office funds for lunches and dinners by the [former] Clerk and other implicated staff found sufficient evidence to support the improper and misuse of office funds for lunches and dinners; and deliberate falsification of supporting documents including Purchase Orders.”
The Audit Report further says the investigation report is with the Police, Attorney General and the Courts for prosecution and is therefore sub-judice.
The new Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, has assured the public that new policies have been put in place to assure the alleged irregularities will not reoccur.
“We have amended our policies, and in doing so all the purchases submitted by the managers will have to go through the Clerk’s office for scrutiny, enforcement or rejection. And each respective order has to be on a needed basis,” he said.
Asked about the “lunches and dinners” mentioned in the Audit report, Tiatia declined to comment.
However the Clerk did clarify lawmakers will be provided lunches after 12:00pm during daily committee hearings.
“But they are just refreshments, such as pastries,” the Clerk said.
He added that the Prime Minister (in his capacity as Minister for the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly) has sent a memo on proper internal controls within the office and said the policies have been followed.
He told the Samoa Observer the policies have been amended and controls are in place to guarantee efficiency and staff adherence to protocols: nothing will be purchased without endorsement by his office.
To date there has been no prosecution on the said matter, yet the criminal investigation was confirmed by the Police Commissioner Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keilm ten months ago.
In a recent interview with the Commissioner, he was unclear on the status of the investigation but confirmed that “investigation is ongoing."
The relevant section of the report is excerpted in full below.
Office of Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Comprehensive Audit – 31 August 2018
An investigation into misuse of office funds for lunches and dinners by the Clerk and other implicated staff found sufficient evidence to support that: improper and misuse of office funds for lunches and dinners; and Deliberate falsification of supporting documents including Purchase Orders. The O.C.L.A. investigation report is with the Police, Attorney General and the courts for prosecution and is therefore sub-judice.