Samoa Ministry Wrote Off Millions In Debts: Report

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Bulk of outstanding debts came from printing services

By Sophie Budvietas

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Jan. 7, 2014) – Outstanding printing debts wreaked havoc with the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development’s (MWCSD) budget in Samoa.

So heavily in the red was the Ministry that it wrote off its debts from 1996 to 2003 totaling WST$399,986,06 [US$16.9 million].

In response to the Controller and Chief Auditor’s 2008-2009 report, the Parliamentary Officer’s Committee (OPC) recommended for the Ministry to work together with the Ministry of Finance in monitoring and payment of outstanding debts of some of the Ministries and Government Corporations, which in this case is the Printing Press for the sake of its revenues.

[PIR editor’s note: A translation of the full report can be found here, courtesy of the Samoa Observer.]

"That the Ministry seriously address the issues raised by the Audit Office so to avoid the recurrence of these administrative problems in future," the OPC report reads.

In the original Auditor’s report it was found that the MWCSD’s Accounts Receivables balance of WST$1,505,403 [US$637,829] for the year under audit had increased by WST$436,969 [US$185,141] from the previous financial year.

"The bulk of these outstanding debts were of unpaid printing accounts which could be unrecoverable," the Auditor reported.

However, the Auditor did note that the Ministry did take the time to respond to the questions he had about their account keeping.

"The outstanding debts from 1996 to 2003 totaling WST $399,986,06 have been written of as per FK(10)47 dated 9 November 2010," the Ministry’s response in Fuimaono C. Afele’s report says.

"We have been issuing monthly statements regularly to debtors including the Line Ministries.

"We have also sought the assistance of the Ministry of Finance Budget Committee to make provisions in the respective Ministries annual budget to settle their outstanding debts for printing services.

"In trying to resolve this issue an Accounts Officer position has been created at the Division for Printing for the management of debtors accounts.

"The Division for Printing now directly accesses the Finance One system at Matautu Tai so that the receipting process is done immediately at the first point of contact and we hope to operate online receipting from the Matautu Tai Office in the future."

The OPC acknowledged the Ministry for clarifying the matters the Auditor raised in his report.

"As for the outstanding accounts of the Printing Press, the Ministry has already determined the release of the programme (Finance One) to it for use to prepare a paper (Invoice) for monies paid for services including other suitable papers to be in line with financial dealings of Government," the OPC report reads.

"In addition an officer has been hired for the Finance Division to be responsible for the collection of revenues. The PSC had also approved our request for a Cashier to work in the Printing Press for the collection of payments due to the Ministry for its services at the moment.

"The Ministry had also referred to the weakness that existed in the past that are now being addressed.

"The truth is that the Ministry was concerned with the debts of the Printing Press, however the Ministry previously responsible for Printing had continuously reminded by sending letters and reminders to the outstanding bettors to pay up.

"In addition the Ministry is undertaking another task of reviewing these debts."

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