Solomon Islands Minister Faces Charges Of Stealing Money From Constituency

Provincial Government minister Tome, charged with 14 counts of conversion, released on fail

By Assumpta Buchanan

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, ) – Provincial Government minister David Tome on Thursday fronted the court, accused of stealing his constituency’s money.

The Baegu/Asifola MP in Malaita faces 14 counts of conversion.

He was released on a cash bail of $2,000 [US$253], with strict bail conditions.

These include not to travel out of Guadalcanal Province, not to interfere indirectly and directly with police investigation and witnesses, to report once a week to the Central Police Station, not to re-offend during the course of his matter, and to appear for his matter in court on the next court appearances.

Public Prosecutor Olivia Ratu applied for those conditions, to which Principal Magistrate Tearo Beneteti granted and then adjourned the matter to May 4.

This is to allow police investigation to complete and for Tome to find himself a lawyer as he appeared in court yesterday without one.

Tome was accused of converting $67,170 [US$8,510] that was supposed to be for a tree farming project in his constituency.

According to brief facts presented to the court, on 27 June 2011 Shem Tome on behalf of the community association owned and registered as Grass Root Economic Development Community (GREDC) which involved in tree farming or reforestation in Baegu/Asifola Constituency, submitted their application for the amount of $80,000 [US$10,140] to their MP, Tome, through the Forestry office at Auki.

This is purposely to buy tools and materials to assist them in their tree farming.

“The proposal without the endorsement of the Member of Parliament for Baegu/Asifola Constituency David Tome was then later refereed to the Ministry of Forestry and Research in particular the office of the Reforestation in Honiara.

“The proposal was later endorsed by the Director of Reforestation on 30 June 2011.”

It was alleged that after that, it was then forwarded to the office of the Permanent Secretary (PS) for further approval and the PS later endorsed and approved it for payment under the reforestation scheme on 19 July 2011.

Prosecution further alleged that the proposal was later forwarded to the Accountant section of the Ministry of Forestry and Research and requisition was prepared on 1 August 2011.

Upon approval by the Finance Controller the payment was forwarded to the Ministry of Finance and Treasury (MoFT) for payment.

It was alleged that the Ministry of Finance approved and paid the amount of $80,000 on 24 August 2011 from the Government account for this project.

Police investigators however, alleged Tome collected the cheque on an unknown date from the Ministry of Finance and later deposited into his constituency account on 9 September 2011 at the ANZ bank in Honiara.

He then allegedly withdrew various amounts of money on various dates on September 2011 totalling up to $67, 170.

The money, according to the proposal, should be paid to Honiara Hardware for tools and materials in full and not for withdrawal in single cheques as the accused allegedly did.

The constituents have no idea whether or not the payment was made until a forestry officer made it known to one of them who in turn reported the matter to the police.

Police Commissioner Matthew Varley the matter was investigated by the RSIPF’s Corruption Investigation team within the Criminal Investigations Department.

He said the investigation was very complex, time consuming and pain staking.

“But the RSIPF will continue to investigating those cases thoroughly and the efforts by corruption team to bring this long running investigation to its conclusion should be acknowledge,” Mr Varley said.

“The role of the RSIPF in these cases is never easy. 

“It is to make sure investigation is carried out fairly and thoroughly, and the information is put to the court and at that point in time that person is innocent until proven guilty.

“And those matters must be allowed to take its process through the court and ultimately the court will decide on the outcome.”

Solomon Star
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