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Ministry: Social Welfare doing best to clear 52,000 case files

Ministry: Social Welfare doing best to clear 52,000 case files
Opposition Member of Parliament Ratu Sela Nanovo.
May 17
12:50 2017


The Ministry of Social Welfare, Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation is currently working on clearing more than 52,000 cases of recipients under the three major social welfare programmes whose bank accounts might have been closed or invalid.

The issue was highlighted in Parliament yesterday while the Public Accounts Committee were scrutinising the ministry’s account issues in the 2015 Auditor General Report.

The ministry’s principal accounts officer, Venina Duvuduvukula, said total revenue in that year stood at more than $150,000 compared to around $70,000 in 2014.

He said the total revenue was mainly miscellaneous revenue due to refund of allowances for welfare beneficiaries, which resulted from invalid or closed bank accounts.

SODELPA MP Ratu Sela Nanovo than questioned if the allowances would remain in the ministry or paid out to the recipients.

He also asked if there was a process in the ministry that would enable them to know if the recipients still existed or ensured that the money reached the recipients.

In response, the ministry’s director for Social Welfare, Rupeni Fatiaki, said dealing with the issue was one of the major challenges they faced.

He said they had an agreement with Westpac Bank, which was the official bank, that in every six months they would provide the ministry a list of invalid accounts.

The process, Mr Fatiaki said, if an account was not active within three months then it would not be operated by the bank.

He said if that was the allowances for that particular year than it would go back to the ministry. But if it was funds from previous years than it would be given to the Ministry of Economy.

For them, Mr Fatiaki said it would be unrealistic to review the more than 52,000 case files.

It should be made clear, he said that the ministry had other responsibilities to handle rather than solely reviewing the accounts.

“The standard operating procedure is that every five years we hold a review for overall of all cases, which requires us to go to the Ministry of Economy to ask for more project offices,” Mr Fatiaki said.

He said another challenge they faced in trying to review accounts was access to data from the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

“We don’t have access to information about someone who had passed away, but we only get to know when someone informs us, only than we will be able to know whether their accounts were invalid or not,” Mr Fatiaki said.

The ministry’s total operating expenditure was around $42 million in 2015 compared to around $34 million in 2014.

Meanwhile, their expenditure increased because of the introduction of a number of new programmes, like the food voucher programmes for pregnant mothers in rural areas and increase in recipients of social protection programmes.

Edited by Naisa Koroi



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