Solomon Islands Civil Aviation Director Removed After Audit Found Mishandling Of Funds

'Board paid themselves exorbitant travelling allowances'

By Aatai John

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Aug. 9, 2017) – Civil Aviation director George Satu has been removed after a special audit found he mishandled a funding facility he has been managing.

An Aviation staffer confirmed this after the audit, carried out by the Office of the Auditor General, found the abuse and mismanagement of the Civil Aviation Special Fund.

"Yes Satu was removed last month after the Auditor General released its findings," the staffer said.

"He is no longer working here at the moment," the officer added.

Permanent Secretary for Aviation Moses Virivolomo declined to discuss the matter when contacted yesterday.

He said the issues involved serious allegations against people on how they use money so he preferred not to comment on it publicly.

"I prefer we leave the matter to follow due process and not to discuss it in the media," Mr Virivolomo said.

Aviation minister Peter Shanel was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Satu could not be reached for comments because his mobile phone was switched off.

The audit has uncovered fraud, corruption, and mismanagement of the Civil Aviation Special Fund for 2013 and 2014.

It put the spotlight on Satu, whose wife and relatives were directly offered lucrative Aviation service contracts.

The audit shows Gibson's Communication, a company owned by Satu's wife, was directly offered contracts to brush and maintain the compound of Civil Aviation as well as supply stationeries to the department.

These contracts were worth thousands of dollars.

The audit also shows a relative of Satu, Fred Peter, was directly offered a contract worth more than $422,000 [US$53,000] to supply the Aviation department with its IT needs.

This is despite Peter being not on the list of national preferred supplier of IT service for the government.

Peter, whom the audit report described as not a genuine vehicle dealer, also supplied two vehicles (Toyota RAV4) to Aviation at a total cost of $263, 230 [US$33,000].

As Civil Aviation director, Satu manages the Civil Aviation Special Fund. He was also one of two signatories to the fund's bank account.

The other signatory is former Attorney General Billy Titiulu, who was then the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands (CAASI) board.

The audit report shows both Titiulu and Satu, as well as staff of the Civil Aviation department, failed to retire imprests worth thousands of dollars they were given when on overseas trips.

It also shows that members of the CAASI board paid themselves exorbitant travelling allowances during their overseas travels.

Furthermore, in 2014, the CAASI board decided to hold three of its meetings in Brisbane that cost more than $608,524.62 [US$77,000].

The report said Aviation could have saved that money had these meetings were held in Honiara.

The Auditor General's Office had given Satu the opportunity to make a reply to its findings.

But Satu failed to make a reply within the given time.

The Civil Aviation Special Fund was established within the Civil Aviation Department to help maintain aviation infrastructures in the country in order to meet international standard.

This special fund draws its revenue mostly from navigation fees paid in by aircrafts operating within our airspace.

Solomon Star
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