The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) has described the management of SBD$21 Million provided for the immediate relief assistance to Western Province and Choiseul after the earthquake and Tsunami disaster in April last year as "very poor."The OAG comment is contained in an Audit Report into how the $21 Million provided for immediate relief assistance to the Tsunami victims was spent. The $21 Million was part of a total of SBD$39,972,023 funding assistance provided by the Solomon Islands Government, overseas donors, and from local donations. $338, 628 of the total amount came from unidentified donations, according to the Report.
The OAG Report shows that at the time of the audit about $4 Million was still not utilized and the OAG 2008 June Report does not cover the $15 Million Solomon Islands Government assistance channeled through the nine (9) Western Province's MPs and two (2) of the three (3) Choiseul MPs.
On the use of the $21 Million, the Report criticized the distribution of essential items worth $1.8 Million; such as food, rations, bedding and clothing during the emergency relief phase as being poorly coordinated. "This lack of control over distribution and logistics leads to a lack of assurance that victims received the benefits of these goods," says the Audit Report.
The Audit investigation has also found that a lot of money meant to provide immediate emergency relief assistance to the Tsunami victims was spent on logistics that did not directly benefit the tsunami victims.
They include; SBD$356,000 spent on Accommodation; $288,000 spent on Overtime Payments to public officers involved in relief work, when such overtime payments should have been processed through the payroll system as directed by the Ministry of Public Service; $473,000 spent on boat Charters; the charters included the charter of the MV Bikoi at a rate of $60,000 per day, which the Audit Report says was "far in excess of the average cost of $20,000 per day as set by the Superintendent of Marine," and $131, 168 was spent on a private charter boat to deliver goods (15 tanks). However the tanks were not delivered but were returned to Honiara. Another $1.8 Million was spent on food; rations, bedding, and clothing which were not properly coordinated or distributed by the National Disaster Council.
The Report also raised concern about the lack of any requirement for the nine (9) Western Province MPs and two (2) of Choiseul MPs to account for the $1.65 Million transferred direct to them during the emergency relief phase.
The OAG Audit Report also raised concern about the lack of monitoring of assets worth more than Two Million dollars ($2,457,126 Million) which the National Disaster Council (NDC) bought during the disaster relief phase. They consisted of vehicles, canoes and boats, OBM, printers, computers, chainsaws and generators amongst others.
Despite the extent of the amount spent on these items the OAG Report has found that there that there has been no Assets Register maintained and there is no mechanism in place to ensure that these assets are returned for future use by the National Disaster Council (NDC) during natural disasters.
The Report also points out that the lack of an asset register is a clear breach of the Government's Financial Instructions 581 (2) and the lack of accountability for assets increases the risk of theft and loss of funds to the Government.
When the OAG visited the Western Provincial Disaster Committee at the time of compiling its report, it found that the assets were not under the control of the Western Disaster Committee and the Committee was no longer functioning one year after the disaster a year ago. The Report says some of the items were missing and some were in poor condition.
The OAG Audit Report noted that "the Government, either or through the National Disaster Council, does not require the MPs to provide details of how the funds were used."
The OAG adds that "this lack of transparency and accountability increases the opportunity for theft, misuse and/or abuse of public funds, resulting in potential loss to the Solomon Islands Government (SIG)."
The OAG June 2008 Audit Report does not cover the $15 Million dollars which the Government allocated to the same eleven (11) MPs for the rehabilitation phase.
FUNDING AND SOURCES FOR THE TSUNAMI AND EARTHQUAKE RELIEF April to December 2007
DONORS AMOUNT SBD$
SI GOVERNMENT FUNDS 14,941.095
SI GOVERNMENT FUNDS 15,000,000
OVERSEAS DONATIONS 9,412,248
LOCAL DONATIONS 338,627
UNIDENTIFIED DEPOSITS 280,053