SAMOA'S CHIEF AUDITOR WARREN QUESTIONS PROVIDENT FUND LOANS

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By Savea Sano Malifa

APIA, Samoa (August 6, 2001 - Samoa Observer/PINA Nius Online)---Hold your breath, Samoa. The Controller and Chief Auditor is revealing more alarming allegations of corruption in government corporations.

Tamaseu Leni Warren says at the end of 1995, the National Provident Fund had recorded massive "doubtful loans" of $3.408 million." Then by the end of 1999, "doubtful loans" had "skyrocketed" by $5,278,000 or about 155% to $8.686 million.

[Note Samoa $1.00 = U.S. $ 0.283 on August 6, 2001]

In his report tabled recently in Parliament, Tamaseu says, "This substantial increase in doubtful loans provision requires a thorough review of the fund’s lending policies.

"The bulk of the fund investments were on loans and advances and these unpaid debts significantly deprived members of extra benefits from their contributions."

During the period in question, the NPF proved a big lender. It’s investment in loans increased by 33 per cent from $80.98 million in 1995 to $119.1 million in 1999. It also wrote off $200,000 and $72,000 as bad debts in 1998 and 1999 respectively, something the Chief Auditor says it’s not empowered to do.

According to the country’s top accountant, only Parliament can do this. In other words, NPF management has allegedly broken the law.

Tamaseu also reports that "there were loans processed and funds released without proper security documents being completed.

"This is poor financial management control inciting irregularity and fraudulent practices."

In addition, "about $71,000 in refunds had been paid to land debtors without supporting lists."

And in the Senior Citizen Benefit Scheme, "administration costs including pension costs (boat fares and medical expenses) also increased steadily and resulted in a deficit of $184,900 in 1999."

Similarly at Public Trust, loans totaling $8,885,916 were issued by June 30, 1999, "$5,905,588 or 66 per cent of which are considered doubtful.

"More than half of the total loans outstanding are classed as unsecured due to significant repayment arrears which have exceeded the value of securities available.

"At 31 December 1999, the office owed $4,657,085 to NPF, $3,650,000 to Treasury and $1,279,752 to Estates.

"Without budgetary assistance from taxpayer funds, the Public Trust Office would be unable to repay the above debts," Tamaseu reports.

At the Agriculture Store, housing loans had been allowed for two staff in 1996. "This is unlawful and is detrimental to the statutory functions of the corporation," Tamaseu points out. The corporation at that time owed Treasury $2,781,514.

And so Tamaseu’s first report to Parliament keeps exposing serious discrepancies in public offices.

What’s the government doing about these allegations of malpractices? What should it do to prove it¹s being guided by "accountability, transparency and good governance?" Only the government knows the answers to these questions.

Stay tuned.

For additional reports from the Samoa Observer, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa Observer.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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