Trio enter not guilty pleas on MHMS scandal

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THREE of the five defendants into the alleged scandal case of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services have entered not guilty pleas yesterday while two others will be arraigned on the next date of appearance.

This is the case against five individuals alleged of misusing funds within the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in 2013.

Robert Manu former procurement officer, Dalcy Maena former accounts officer and local contractor Tigi Sikele entered not guilty pleas on all the charges against them, and the case is adjourned for the next seven days.

The other two accused, Stephen Kidoe Dalipanda former Financial Controller and Randy Hatigeva former senior accountant, will likely enter their plea on the next appearance.

The allegation said that the five individuals were involved in misusing funds in the $10-million scandal that was uncovered in 2013 during a normal risk assessment undertaken in the Government’s financial management information system by Finance ministry officials.

In doing so, irregularities were detected in transactions relating to the Health Sector Support Program funded by AusAID.

It was uncovered that government contracts allocated under the health project involved grossly inflated pricing of freight service charges and shipping charters by contractors who were not shipping operators, but merely middle-man shell companies that charged exorbitant margins of around three to four times the normal freight service charges.

Government officials involved have allegedly colluded with contracted service providers to defraud the state.

The allegation against the former financial controller said between 1 January 2012 and 20 September 2013 the former Financial Controller obtained $7.3 million and on 15 occasions he fabricated invoices for freighting and claims were submitted under the fake shipping companies without the provision of services.

His co-accused Manu of Tikopia faces 12 counts of false pretence and four counts of official corruption.

This is for allegedly processed some payments under two non-genuine shipping companies totally up to 7.3 million.

Prosecution then alleged that the other accused Mr Hatigeva is also involved in endorsing payments and other documents totalling up $7.3 million.

While Dalcy Maena of Malaita who faces 18 counts of false pretence was alleged for processing fictitious quotes, invoices and claims for non-executed services or duplicated payments from fake shipping including a private company that she set up totalling up to SBD $7,542, 763.40.

In relation to the local contractor Tigi Sikele he faced with two counts of false pretences for allegedly defrauding the Ministry of Health of more than $730,000.

The Public Prosecution office is appearing for the crown in court.