MHMS scandal case set for preliminary inquiry

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BY JENNIFER KUSAPA

THE ministry of health (MHMS) scandal case has been adjourned for 14 days to begin its preliminary inquiry.

This is the case against five individuals alleged of misusing funds within the ministry of health in 2013.

Robert Manu former procurement officer, Dalcy Maena former accounts officer, local contractor Tigi Sikele, and Stephen Kidoe Dalipanda former Financial Controller and Randy Hatigeva former senior accountant.

They were alleged to have involved in misusing funds relating to the $10-million scandal that was uncovered in 2013 during a normal risk assessment undertaken in the government’s financial management information system by Finance ministry officials. In doing so, irregularities were detected in transactions relating to the Health Sector Support Programme funded by AusAID.

This is for the court to hear from the prosecution whether they have enough evidence to prosecute the case in court.

The defence lawyers have indicated a short form preliminary inquiry, and that will be heard in the next 14 days.

It was uncovered that government contracts allocated under the health project involved grossly inflated pricing of freight service charges and shipping charters by contractors who were not shipping operators, but merely middle-man shell companies that charged exorbitant margins of around three to four times the normal freight service charges.

Government officials involved have allegedly colluded with contracted service providers to defraud the state.

The allegation against the former financial controller said between January 1, 2012 and September 20, 2013 he obtained $7.3 million and on 15 occasions fabricated invoices for freighting and claims were submitted under the fake shipping companies without the provision of services.

His co-accused Manu of Tikopia faces 12 counts of false pretence and four counts of official corruption.

This is for allegedly processing some payments under two non-genuine shipping companies totalling up to $7.3 million.

Prosecution then alleged that the other Mr Hatigeva is also involved in endorsing payments and other documents totalling up $7.3 million.

Dalcy Maena of Malaita who faces 18 counts of false pretence was alleged of processing fictitious quotes, invoices and claims for non-executed services or duplicated payments from fake shipping including a private company that she set up totalling up to SBD $7,542,763.40.

In relation to the local contractor Tigi Sikele, he faces two counts of false pretences for allegedly defrauding the Ministry of Health of more than $730,000.

The Public Prosecution office is appearing for the crown in court.

Principal Magistrate Ricky Iomea presides over the case in court.

ENDS//

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