Who said there was no corruption in Government?

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Two weeks ago a reporter brought a document and landed it on the desk.

It was bundled up, stapled and quite a thick one too. Upon closer examination, it was revealed that the document was the Report on Irregularities in the Ministries and Parliamentary Offices reported to the Audit Office for several years. For 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 in fact. Quite a lot of bed time reading.

In an introductory letter to the Speaker of Parliament, Tole’afoa Faafisi,  Controller and Auditor General, Fuimaono Papali’i Afele writes: “In compliance with Article 98 of the Constitution of the Independent State of Samoa 1960 and Section 42 of the Audit Act 2013, I respectfully submit to you, for transmission to the Legislative Assembly of Samoa and for tabling in the next Parliament session, my Report on Irregularities in the Ministries and Parliamentary and Constitutional Offices of the Independent State of Samoa reported to the Audit Office for the period, July 2013 to June 2014.”

It has since been brought to our attention that the reports are available online, which is fantastic for the sake of transparency, accountability and good governance. But whether people actually take the time to read them, is another question. We reckon everyone should take time to read them. 

There are certainly a lot interesting eye-raising incidents there. Some of them are hard to fathom.

Take for instance one case where a Government official produced falsified letters of approval by the Tenders Board to make a payment worth $212,000 to suppliers for services and goods that had not been supplied.

The report does not name the employee and who the suppliers are.

But it tells us that an investigation into payment vouchers submitted to the Accounts Division of M.O.F. in relation to sums payable to two suppliers for $77,000 and $135,000 raised the alarm.

“The former Procurement Specialist produced falsified letters of approval by the Tenders Board to support payments and forged signatures shown on the letters. Services and goods involved have not been provided by the two suppliers,” the report reads. 

The report goes on to say that the Procurement Specialist immediately resigned.

“This case was referred to the Public Service Commission and the Ministry of Police for further investigation under their respective laws,” the report continues. 

Now you don’t need to be a super smart person to know that what was done is criminal. You would think that charges would follow and that person responsible would be held accountable. Forgery is fraudulent and it is a serious matter, especially when it involves large sums of public monies.

Folks, we remind that we live in a country where ordinary men and women are thrown in jail for stealing soap and toothpaste from the local shop. And here we have a case involving a couple of hundred thousands and yet it appears that nothing was done about it.

Obviously it has taken a while to surface but nothing can remain a secret forever in this world – let alone small Samoa where even the trees and the rocks talk.

On the front page of the newspaper you are reading, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Finance, Lavea Iulai Lavea, has reassured that the woman is not working for the Ministry of Finance.

“She does not work for us,” he said. “She is a Project Manager somewhere else, but not for the Government and not for the Ministry of Finance.”

Okay then but if she is a Project Manager for whatever – and most probably still dealing with public monies one way or another – what does that tell us? 

That you can commit forgery and go on living your life as if its normal?

Now here is something we often hear from Government loyalists who just cannot see beyond the perks of abusing public monies and properties every other day. Every time the issue of corruption is raised on this newspaper or anywhere else for that matter, you will often hear them say that there is no corruption in Samoa. Really?

Looking at these irregularity reports, that is obviously very, very far from the truth. We can comb through some of those incidents and find countless accounts of corruption and wrong doing that should result in many of those people behind bars.

Interestingly enough, in another story titled “Finance C.E.O. concerned by alleged misappropriation of Govt. funds” highlighted more cases of missing funds being investigated by the Police.

The ministries in question include the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.), Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure (M.W.T.I.) and the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

 “The M.P.M.C. is implicated with missing funds of $17,135 whereas M.N.R.E. there are two cases one for $5,500 and the other for $7,900 or $13,000 in total while the M.W.T.I. is more than $12,000,” we’ve been told. “These irregularities have already been reported to the Ministry of Police for their investigation and appropriate action.”

Fine. But how often do we see action taken after a Ministry of Police investigation? Is it not time we set up a white-collar crime investigation unit to deal with these issues? Is it not time to revisit the idea of having an Anti-Corruption Tribunal, which this Government continues to reject?

Today, we ask the question once again, can you honestly tell us that there is no corruption in Government? 

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

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