Audit Shows Misuse Of Funds At RMI Environment Authority

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

‘Current management’ aware of, attempting to remedy, problems

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, March 10, 2016) – Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Authority management and staff used public money to buy air conditioners for their homes, cell phone cards, and food from local stores where EPA had accounts, the latest auditor general report to the parliament shows.

The audit report on Marshall Islands EPA for fiscal year 2013 was one of the worst on record. The latest, for FY 2014, not only takes the term "misuse of government funds" to new heights, it even provoked the auditor general to veer away from the normally bland language of audit reports to comment: "EPA could realize major savings on food stuff if it could cut down on having meetings with staff in restaurants and utilize their newly renovated conference room."

The number of problems identified by auditors rose from 14 in 2013 to 17 in 2014. EPA spent thousands of dollars "for catering, daily charges at a local gas station by various EPA personnel, payments to various restaurants on island…and the purchase of fish…throughout the year and the subsequent year," the audit said. One check for $100 was used to buy fish to take to Guam and the check was cashed by someone other than the "payee" listed on the check, while another was issued to a local restaurant for $119.35 and justified as a meeting for the general manager and EPA staff "regarding daily work and environmental issues."

"Excessive spending on food was reported as a finding" in 2013 but continued as a problem in FY2014, the audit noted.

These are just a few of one of the 17 findings — five of which were repeat problems from the previous year that had not been corrected by EPA management or the board. The answers from the EPA board and management to each of the 17 findings indicate awareness of the problems, agreement with the audit recommendations, and state the problems were from "previous management," and are being handled by "current management."

Other major problems identified by the auditor general included:

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