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Ex-PWD Workers Sentenced To Six Years

Ex-PWD Workers Sentenced To Six Years
August 11
10:54 2018

Two former Public Works Department (PWD) workers were sentenced yesterday by the High Court in Suva. The two accused flouted procurement procedure rules by “short-circuiting” the system and making sure that monies were paid to “Professional Stationeries” even though the goods and services were not supplied

For abusing their office while employed at the then-PWD and causing a loss to the department between January 1, 2010 and May 31, 2010, the two accused women were sentenced to six years imprisonment. The accused are Amelia Vunisea, 58, former Acting Assistant Accounts Officer, and Laisa Halafi, 43, former Clerical Officer.

High Court in Suva judge, Justice Salesi Temo did not set a non-parole period and ordered them to serve the sentence concurrently with any prison sentence that they are serving.

PWD did public works for the Government of Fiji and in performing its functions it bought goods and services from companies in Fiji.

In this case then-PWD was to buy goods and services from a company known as Professional Stationeries.

Vunisea’s responsibilities included “checking quotations and other source documents before processing payments, matching invoices received against the purchase orders, costing of private hire dockets from various contractors, preparing schedule of bills, updating creditor ledger cards, process cash requirement report and filing of payment correspondence.”

In addition, she was also responsible for submitting monthly reports, reconciliation of suspense accounts, signing cheques, supervising accounts clerks and banking and general reconciliation duties.

Halafi’s responsibilities included assisting Vunisea in all secretarial responsibilities to see that the functions of the office are achieved.

Between January 1, 2010 and May 31, 2010 Vunisea abused the authority of her office by signing 12 PWD Westpac Bank cheques which saw a total of $28,794.89 being paid to the stationery company.

Halafi abused the authority of her office by signing the “Check by” columns purportedly saying that all the relevant signatures and checking had been carried out by the relevant officers, thereby necessitating the matter to be passed for payment.

Justice Temo said Halafi “was lying through her teeth” because the relevant signatures and checks were not done.

In fact, she “short-circuited” the PWD’s procurement system to enable Professional Stationeries to receive $32,066.77 from PWD without supplying any goods or services.

The aggravating factors were that the two women seriously breached their employer’s trust, the offending was well planned and it resulted in a monetary loss to the tax payers of Fiji.

In mitigation, both women stated that they were first offenders, and they pleaded guilty to the offence thus saving the court’s time.

They were both given 30 days to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

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