Prosecution told to provide disclosures to defence counsel on woman’s case

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PRINCIPAL Magistrate Tearo Beneteti has adjourned the case against a woman, charged with stealing SBD1.3 million, to September 21 for plea.

Yesterday the court was told that documents and evidence regarding the charge against the accused are yet to be provided to the defence lawyer and defence is still waiting on those documents.

Meanwhile Steward Tonowane who appeared on behalf of his colleague told the court that investigations are now complete and they are ready to provide disclosures to the defence lawyer.

Therefore, the court made orders that prosecution provides disclosures to the defence and also defence lawyer to obtain instruction for plea on the next appearance.

This is the case of a female teacher Cecilia Samani Tome who was charged by police with count of embezzlement by public servant contrary to section 273 (b) (ii) of penal code (cap 26)
Ms Tome is an Early Childhood Teacher currently attached to the Manaoba Early Childhood Education Kindergarten School by the Malaita Education Authority under the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development.

It is alleged that in 2017 two very large overpayments were made over pay period one and pay period two in the month of December.

The payments were made to ANZ account number 5147563 which is held and operated by the accused.

The allegation said the first payment was made on December 2017 for $3, 703 557.11 and the second payment was made on December 21 2017 for $102, 740.66.

Which the two payments totaled up to $3,806,299.77.

Police said as an early Childhood Education teacher the accused is paid on pay level 6 which earns her in the vicinity of $1000.00 per fortnight net pay.

According to the salary authority form raised by the teaching services for the pay period in December the amount she should have received for that pay should have been $6,240.00. this was for her yearly inducement allowance.

However, when her salary was forwarded to the payroll section at the Ministry Finance one of the staff who processed the payments entered the wrong data into the Aurion payroll system. This resulted in the overpayment of $3,806, 299.77 to the accused account.

The fact that she received two very large payments from the Solomon Islands Government into her account should have prompted the accused to inform either the Ministry of Education and Human Resources or the Ministry of Finance Payroll sections of the obvious errors.

The accused did neither of these things.

It is alleged that between December 7 and July 24 2018, she in fact set about withdrawing large amounts in cash and transferring large amounts from her ANZ account Number 5147563 where her government wages were paid, to her other ANZ account number 5467447.

The error which led to the overpayment was discovered by the responsible Ministry, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, who notified the Ministry of Finance and Treasury payroll section in July 2018.

The Ministry of finance and Treasury payroll section made a request to the ANZ Bank in July 2018 to freeze the accounts of Cecilia Tome and that funds still available be remitted to the Solomon Islands Government.

As result of this request from MoFT the ANZ Bank secured and returned to the Solomon Islands Government the amount of $2 412 301. 47 which was transferred from the two accounts operated by the accused, ANZ account no 5147563 and ANZ account no, 5467447.

After the recovery it was discovered by government auditors that an amount of 1 393 996.30 had been taken and used by Cecilia Samani Tome, to which she was not entitled.

She appeared in court and was released on cash bail of $2000 with following conditions that she must surrender her passport, not to contact any person or indirectly employed by the Solomon Island Ministry of Finance and Treasury or the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, and also not to enter any government office, including all Ministry of Finance & Treasury offices or the Ministry of Education.