‘Fishy’ payments to city councillor

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A COMPANY owned by Honiara City councillor Dorah Huapii Irofia collected almost $1 million in highly questionable payments for the first three months of 2020, for supplying basic furniture, stationeries and office equipment to the council.

That’s according to a report the former council deputy treasurer compiled as part of investigations into how the current council executive allegedly mismanaged the affairs of the council.

Dora, who is councilor for Cruz Ward, is the director of DOD’s General Supplier, which the report stated was one of the council’s “Preferred Suppliers”.

The contract was awarded direct to DOD without any tender process.

It was not just the amount of money paid out within four months that got the attention of the former deputy treasurer, but also the frequency at which it was paid.

For instance, on 20 January 2020, DOD received a cheque for $122,400 in the morning and another cheque for $34,600 in the afternoon.

The following month on 19 February, DOD was paid two other separate cheques on the same day – one for $34,460 and another for $53,000.

Five days later on 25 February, DOD collected two further payments – the first for $43,900 and the second for $141,600.

And on 25 March, DOD received two more cheques for $70,000 and $45,000 to cap off its spoil for the first quarter of 2020.

The report showed for the month of January, DOD collected three payments totaling $231,500.

For February, it received nine cheques worth $588,960.

And in March, DOD collected $115,000 to bring the total amount it got paid, to $935,460.

The report was critical of two particular payments.

The first was an $85,000 cheque paid to Cruz Women’s Group on 6 February, while the second was a $70,000 cheque raised in the name of Cr. Dorah Huapii Irofia on 14 February instead to DOD General Supplier.

The report pointed out that the $85,000 cheque to Cruz Women’s Group was highly suspicious and needs to be investigated.

The $70,000 paid to Cr. Dorah Huapii Irofia, the report added, should be raised in the name of DOD as the supplier and not to a councilor.

Although the only female councilor in the current executive, the report stated Councillor Dorah is one of the leading and highly influential figures in the council’s politics.

The report said while the council has a lot of outstanding bills to settle, (then) city clerk Rence Sore appeared to have given priority to paying DOD bills.

“This may be a reflection of how (then) city mayor Wilson Mamae, Sore and Cr. Dorah run the council.

“Obviously by studying the flow of payment to DOD’s General Supplier one can conclude that Sore prioritises payments that benefits himself through commissions.

“As a result lots of payments paid to DOD’s General Supplier were signed and released,” the report said.

The report also questioned the way in which payments are made to suppliers within the Honiara City Council.

“In the financial instruction there are clear guidelines on how procurement process should take its course.

“However, within the Honiara City Council cheque payments that supposed to be raised and paid to suppliers are raised under the name of council officers, cashed by the officers and later paid to suppliers.

“A clear example is on the 13/01/2020 chq payment was raised under the name of Honiara City Council finance Officer June Qae and was cashed and later spend the money for Fuel & lubricants (chq # 101771).

“On another occasion another chq payment was raised on the 30/01/2020 chq # 101862 and paid to Kadiba Alu, Media officer within the Honiara City Council, for printing of finance staff.

“The question again is why can’t these payouts be made straight to the suppliers?

“Honiara City Council adopted all procurement instruction in the Supplier Chain Management under Financial Instruction however, the act of cashing cheques and later procure items conflicted with clear guidelines set out in the Financial Instruction.

“The act of the officers put their integrity at question.”

In his final report before he was sacked from the council, Sore highlighted the poor procurement practices within the council.

He said these include insufficient planning, lack of documentation and non-consideration for value for money.

“These arise mainly because of the confusion that exists between the lines of governance and management of the council,” Sore said in his report.

He added the confusion is evident in the current council on matters like the allocation of market lock up shops, administration of vehicle tenders and the Kukum Market project.

“Good procurement practices will never be achieved in the life of this current house of the city council,” Sore said.