Missing $302M

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Auditor General report reveals missing vouchers & unretired imprests in Ministry of Finance & Treasury

 

By Alfred Sasako

 

MIISSING vouchers and documents amounted to more than $300million of taxpayers’ money has been exposed in the Ministry of Finance and Treasury (MOFT) by a report from the Auditor General.

A report by the Auditor General, the nation’s head bean counter, has stumbled on what most ordinary Solomon Islanders have suspected all along – the decays in the management of public finance by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.

In its audit of government accounts from 2013 to 2016, it has uncovered evidence of more than $300 million in public funds, which could not be accounted for due to missing documents (vouchers.)

The figure represents the value of both missing vouchers as well as unretired special imprests in 2012 and 2013. The findings have left the Auditor General’s Office in a quandary – he cannot express an opinion on the status of government finances or statements.

“The extent of missing documentation was so pervasive that this was one of the reasons that the Auditor-General was unable to express an opinion on the SIG financial statements.”

In 2012 the Auditor General found that some 278 payment vouchers valued at $127, 880,094.08 were missing. The following year (2013) an additional 168 payment vouchers valued at $ 144,510,917.17 were also missing, the Auditor General has found.

In the two-year period to 2013, missing payment of 446 vouchers valued at $272, 391,011.25 were unaccounted for because of missing documentation.

“The figures (above) summarise the extent of missing payment vouchers,” the Auditor General said.

When these figures are added to the number and value of special imprests that had been issued but not retired during each of 2012 and 2013, the loss to government is staggering.

For example in 2012 some 385 special Imprests valued at $9,751,344.52 were issued. In 2013, an additional 441 special imprests valued at $19, 340, 860.47 were issued. They were never retired.

And it did not stop there. In Customs and Excise, the findings are just as bad.

“With regard to Customs and Excise, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) selected a sample of nine (9) entries totalling $52,244,427 to check for import duty.

“They found that there were no supporting documents attached to the entry forms. It was not possible to verify seven (7) entries to source documents which totalled $38,955,017.

“For Customs and Excise revenue collected on behalf of Inland Revenue Division, we found a significant number of missing revenue vouchers. OAG noted that 46 per cent of the total sample selected was missing which totalled $5,824,854.81,” the report said.

Private Lawyer Leslie Kwaiga who broke the story said the corrupt practice in government ministries has gone on for far too long.

“It must be stopped,” Mr Kwaiga said

Former US President Harry S Truman once said, “when an uneducated steals, he steals nuts and bolts but give him a college degree and if steals, he steals a railway station.”

Truman must have been prophesying about post-conflict Solomon Islands 2017 where highly educated public servants now use the public purse as their own.

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