No further adjournments on MHMS scandal case: Aulanga

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BY JENNIFER KUSAPA

PRINCIPAL Magistrate Augustine Aulanga has made orders in court yesterday that the Ministry of Health and Medical Services case will not be further adjourned to later dates.

He made the comments following prosecution’s application to adjourn the case for the next seven days as the prosecution in carriage of the case is yet to prepare all required documents for the Short Form Preliminary Inquiry.

Public Prosecutor John Zoze who appeared on behalf of his colleague prosecutor said that the original files in regards to the case have just returned from the police investigators and the prosecution needs time to prepare the list of documents for the SFPI.

He said the documents were huge and prosecution needs a seven-day adjournment.

But Magistrate Aulanga said seven days adjournment is too much as this particular case has already adjourned for several times.

Therefore he adjourned the case to this Thursday for prosecution to prepare all documents and also for the PI to proceed.

“This is the last adjournment and no more further adjournment,” Mr Aulanga said.

This is the case against five individuals alleged of misusing funds within the Ministry of Health and Medical Services 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 for 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 Program funded by AusAID.

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 1 January 2012 and 20 September 2013 the former Financial Controller obtained $7.3 million and on 15 occasions he 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 processed some payments under two non-genuine shipping companies totally up to 7.3 million.

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

While Dalcy Maena of Malaita who faces 18 counts of false pretence was alleged for 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 faced with 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.

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