LCC clears Irofia, allegations remain

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By CHARLES KADAMANA

Controversial HCC Councillor, Mrs Dora Huapii Irofia, has complied with the national leadership code.

Chairman to the Leadership Code Commission (LCC), Mr Solomon Kalu, yesterday said Councillor Irofia “had correctly complied with her duties and responsibilities under the Leadership Code”.

In a media statement yesterday, Kalu said:

“Councilor Irofia had duly disclosed to the Commission her interest in DODs General Supplies (BN2014191) in accordance with Part II of the Leadership Code (Further Provisions) Act 1999.

“She is part owner of this private business prior to her becoming a leader.

“Besides the timely disclosure of her private business interest, the Leader had also sought and obtained the Commission’s approval as required of her under section 15 of the Leadership Code (Further Provisions) Act 1999.

“Beside disclosing and obtaining the Commission’s approval, the Leader also sought and obtained permission from the Commission for her business – DODs General Services to enter into a contract with the HCC as required of her under section 14 of the Leadership Code (Further Provisions) Act 1999,” the chairman said.

He said DODs General Services is amongst six other private businesses in Honiara that are listed as preferred suppliers for the HCC.

The Commission granted her applications for approval and permission at its 73rd meeting convened in November 2019.

Meanwhile, while LCC has cleared Irofia of having declared her business with the Commission, questions remain over ethical issues regarding Councillor Irofia’s company being awarded Council contracts as a ‘preferred supplier’.

Another is the allegations of ‘fishy’ payments raised in a report compiled by former HCC deputy treasurer as part of investigations into how the former council executive allegedly mismanaged the affairs of the council.

When spoken to earlier this week, Irofia did not directly address these allegations, rather basing her comments on having satisfied LCC’s requirements.

The report said within just three months in 2020 Councillor Irofia and DODs collected almost $1 million in highly questionable payments for supplying basic furniture, stationeries and office equipment to the council.

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

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

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

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

And on March 25, DODs 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, DODs collected three payments totaling $231,500.

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

And in March, DODs 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 February 6, while the second was a $70,000 cheque raised in the name of Cr Irofia on February 14 instead of DODs 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 Irofia, the report added, should be raised in the name of DODs as the supplier and not to a councilor.

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, former Clerk, Rence 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.


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