Health Ministry's financial failings continue: Auditor

The Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) continues to be plagued by financial mismanagement including excessive spending and weak monitoring systems, a report by the Office of the Auditor tabled in Parliament this week found. 

The report released by Controller and Auditor General, Fuimaono Afele Taimalelagi, is for the fiscal year 2018-2019. 

But the operations of the Ministry of Health under review include 2016, 2017 and 2018, the report found. 

The Samoa Observer contacted the Ministry’s Director-General, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, for his response to the audit but has not received a response.  

According to the Audit Report in June 2016, the Auditors identified excessive spending when compared to budget forecasts. This included additional spending on catering by $12,000, which was also incorrectly classified. 

Excessive spending for electricity, internet charges, and fuel consumption were also identified. 

Former employees were continuing to receive paycheques the report found.

The Audit office said such financial irregularities were not systematically classified, such as for incidents involving a ministry vehicle or salary deductions. 

“The receipting process in the Ministry needs to be reviewed in light of identified weaknesses,” the report reads. 

“Official Government receipt book were not registered when received from Ministry of Finance. 

”[There was] no Cashier responsible for the cashier function and no proper cashbox to store the cash at end of day prior to banking.

The Ministry, according to the Audit report, paid an employee her long service leave benefits totalling $7,938 despite a lack of documentation to record the payment. 

“We found a number of inaccurate and incomplete records associated with staff leave cards. And therefore, we were unable to confirm if employees taking leave were properly authorised,” the report reads. 

“The Ministry was unable to provide any divisional reports and supporting documentations to verify the achievement of its performance measures within the financial year under audit. 

“Previous management letter reported a number of issues with recommendations for improvement that have not yet been implemented as evident in the current audit.” 

Total Ministry debts for 2018 of more than 90 days age amounted to $19,797, the report found. 

“The Ministry responded that debtors were made up of staff members raised from Irregularities with salary deductions while other external debtors will be written off as bad debts pending confirmation from M.O.F. (Ministry of Finance),” the report read.

“Measures are in place for future transactions with organisations with debts. 

“Two ministry vehicles exceeded [their] approved fuel budgeted amount of $5,000 per vehicle. These two vehicles are responsible for monitoring food premises which extend beyond normal working hours. Monitoring of vehicles are in place. 

“Receipt books were not properly recorded and updated. Personnel are reminded to update regularly, and the register is being monitored.

“There was a delay in processing of documentation from the responsible division which resulted in an overpayment of $435.92 for an employee.”

According to the report, Ministry assets were not labelled, and its register of assets was not properly maintained. 

“Accounts staff are responsible as the Senior Assets Officer has not been approved by [the Public Service Commission] since 2016. 

“Staff are obligated to report to the Accounts Unit once assets have been received and recommendation has been noted.”

The Auditors also found that recommendations from previous financial audits had not been implemented including a lack of maintenance for a nurses hostel and classrooms, non-submission of information for audit verifications, and long outstanding debtors.

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