Shipping grant, Cabinet’s approval in 2013: Former PS MID

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THE former Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID) who is the current Permanent Secretary for Aviation and Communication, Moses Virivolomo, has told the court that shipping grants were cabinet’s approval inserted in the MID budget of 2013.

Mr Virivolomo was the PS of the MID from 2011 to 2015.

He testified in court on the case against the outgoing MP for Savo/Russell Dickson Panakitasi Mua yesterday.

Virivolomo confirmed that Mr Mua received a $3million shipping grant on December 31, 2013 during the dying days of former PM Gordon Darcy Lilo’s government.

He said others already received the shipping on the second and third quarter and the shipping grant money was exhausted.

Virivolomo said the shipping grant was approved by cabinet and it was only ‘them’ who knew how the monies were allocated; the MID on the other hand only facilitated the payments.

He confirmed that $3million was paid to Savo/Russells constituency on December 31, 2013 for the purchase of new ship.

Defence Lawyer Leslie Kwaiga also put questions to the witness in relation to the payments and the list of recipients of how many and how much fund were allocated.

Virivolomo in response said that he couldn’t remember and also other documents were not disclosed to him like the cabinet’s minutes, only the conclusion part of it was disclosed to the ministry and it was for facilitating what the cabinet has approved.

Mua was arrested and charged by police in relation to the offence of conversion.

Prosecution will be calling 12 witnesses during the trial.

The incident occurred in 2013 in which Mua is being accused of converting $3m shipping grants for other purposes.

The allegation relates to an application that was submitted to the Ministry of Infrastructure Development by Mua, and according to the proposal document, the MP was seeking $3m from the SIG through the NTF in 2013 to purchase a ship for Savo Russells Constituency.

The proposal was processed and approved by the MID and the funds were paid on the December 30, 2013.

It was alleged that on January 2 2014 the Constituency Development Officer of Savo/Russells collected the cheque from the Finance and deposited to the Savo Russell constituency bank account.

Police further alleged that the MP started to make series of withdrawals from the account when the money was deposited until that money was completely withdrawn on the February 4, 2014.

Investigation revealed that instead of using the $3m to purchase the ship as its intended purpose, the MP allegedly paid $2.8m to a local company for the purpose of items such as OBMs and other equipment for distribution to his supporters in Savo Russell constituency.

It also further alleged that $200,000 of the money was withdrawn as cash and use for other expenses and not related to the purposes of the shipping grant.

Sirepu Ngava of the Office of the Director Public Prosecution appears for the crown while Leslie Kwaiga represents the accused in court.