Police say no referral yet relating to OAG audit report on misuse of covid-19 funds


Police say despite the Auditor General having released its report showing millions of covid-19 funds misused, there has been no case opened.

Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau confirmed this yesterday at the police weekly conference.

Last month, the Auditor General released its audit report of three government ministries which found widespread non-compliance from April-December, 2020 in their spending of public funds allocated for covid-19 preparedness and response.

Responding to questions raised Commissioner Mangau said referrals for investigation will be forwarded to his office and they will look into the file for investigation.

He said there has been no referral since the report was released.

Last month it was published in the media that Office of the Auditor General investigated how three ministries procured goods and services using covid-19 funds from April to December, 2020.

They are the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS), The Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID) and National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) under the ministry of environment, climate change, disaster management & meteorology (MECDM).

The OAG report published last month and called on the national government to strengthen its procurement processes.

$90 million was spent by MHMS, NDMO and MID in 2020. They used the disaster relief fund to spend on goods, services and works to support the response to the pandemic.

MHMS spent $26 million, MID – $14.9 million and NDMO – $49.5 million.

However, the report found that most of these spendings were made though “truncated procurement process”.

When the state of public emergency was declared on March 25, 2020, government’s normal procurement procedure was replaced by the use of Bid Waiver system – an alternative procurement system which was used in exceptional circumstances in which ‘observing the normal requirements would result in detriment to the people or assets of the Solomon Islands’.

The bill waiver system was abused. For example, some works were completed and paid for before the bill waiver was approved and contracts signed in ‘cart-before-horse’ style.

Since the tender process was absent, conflicts of interest were not declared. There was high risk of nepotism, wantok business and offering contracts to family members, relatives, friends or associates.

Bloated prices of goods and services popped up which ate away the covid-19 funds.

For example, $400 for one pillow and $130 for one blanket, provided to the national referral hospital (NRH), seen in an invoice of $99,500 dated May 25, 2020.

Documents were missing, which would have provided information to prove that public funds were well spent.

In many cases, documents show that amounts have been manipulated by hand. For example, a payment voucher made out for a $11,089 payment was manually changed to $110,089.

Some businesses which were not registered under the Company Haus were awarded contracts.

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