Friday, 7 November 2008 2:00 PM

Commission of Inquiry Spending Queried by OAG

The Office of the Auditor General, OAG, has raised some serious questions about the way the commission of inquiry into the 2006 April riots spent more than SBD$4.1 million dollars.

The OAG was requested in November 2007 to review the administration and management of finances allocated to the commission, the amount at that time stood at SBD$3.8 million dollars.

At the end of the investigation however, the OAG has found that the commission had spent a total of SBD$4,179,800.95. The OAG also noted that several expenditure items were not related to the commission of inquiry.

For example, the audit report has found that a total of SBD$209,857.97 in legal fees were paid to an Australian firm of solicitors for personal legal fees of two prominent government officials with no link to the inquiry.

A further SBD$13,230.00 was paid as sitting allowances for other committees not connected to the commission of inquiry.

The OAG has also found that SBD$31,753.48 was spent by the commission on stationeries although they should have been provided by a secretarial service, paid SBD$50,000 a month to provide that service to the commission.

Return airfares to PNG were paid to some of the commissioners, this was in addition to the return airfares catered for in their contracts. There was also a return airfare to Gizo for the counsel assisting the commission during the same period of time.

Meals for the commissioners were paid in addition to their accommodation even though their contracts clearly stated that accommodation would be provided but was silent on the provision of meals.

The OAG report is also critical of the fact that two standing imprests totaling SBD$505,000 were issued, and required to be retired by 31st December 2007, was yet to be retired by June 2008 when the audit report was produced.

The OAG strongly recommends the Prime Minister's Office to play a more active role in monitoring the financial and budgetary processes of the commission.

The OAG audit report also says that the Secretary to Cabinet has provided an action plan to address all of the recommendations raised in the report.

The Secretary to Cabinet also assured the OAG that matters raised would be investigated and disciplinary and legal actions to be taken as required.

SOURCE: National Express