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Social Club Expenses Derived From Ministry Under Scrutiny

A social club formed under the then Ministry for Finance in 2014 came under scrutiny before the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament yesterday. The issue was highlighted while the Permanent
08 Jun 2017 13:03
Social Club Expenses Derived From Ministry Under Scrutiny
Expenses

A social club formed under the then Ministry for Finance in 2014 came under scrutiny before the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament yesterday.

The issue was highlighted while the Permanent Secretary for Economy Makereta Konrote was making submissions on the 2014 Auditor-General’s Report.

The report stated that in 2014 the then Ministry of Finance made an advance payment to a sportswear company to the amount of $22,248.40 to buy sports gear for its staff. In addition, the payments were to be recovered from the staff members within three months.

Ministry chief accountant Pankaj Singh said the sports gears were bought as part of the equipment for the ministry’s wellness programme.

The audit noted that deductions made from the staff accounts were reimbursed to the social club account instead of the ministry’s account.

Furthermore, in 2015 the social club managed to reimburse $9536.98 while $12,711.42 remained outstanding.

Ms Konrote said an internal investigation was carried out. However, the recovery continued to date.

The staff members involved, she said, had moved to another ministry while one of them had migrated overseas.

Committee chair Ashneel Sudhakar questioned who was responsible for approving the advanced payment to be made to the sportswear company.

He added if the payment was properly made then there was no need to recover the money.

In response, Mr Singh said it was approved by the then Permanent Secretary.

He added the payment procedure was followed but there was a miscommunication between the staff members involved.

Opposition MP Ratu Sela Nanovo questioned why didn’t the social club members make the payments through their salary.

The Permanent Secretary involved, he said, should have been penalised too.

Mr Singh agreed. However, he said it was an oversight from the staff members involved who were later surcharged.

After the incident, he added an advancement agreement register was reconciled on a monthly basis and reports were sent to the Permanent Secretary.

Technically, Mr Singh said salary advance should have been reimbursed back to Government but there was an oversight on the side of the accounting officer.

Opposition MP Aseri Radrodro asked whether there was a need to accommodate social clubs within Government ministries.

Mr Singh said the staff members didn’t contribute to the social club via their salaries at that time.

He said the social club had been removed.

A concern was, Mr Sudhakar said, that there was a deliberated attempt by the staff to cancel the debt.

“What is worrying is that there was a payment advancement made by the ministry on behalf of the staff to the sportswear company, the approval was okay, but the reimbursement part should have gone rightfully to the ministry’s account but there was manipulation of various accounts to cancel the debt which means the money went back to the social club.

“The internal audit should find out which staff was part of the social club , who were the office bearers , the money should have come back to the ministry but it went somewhere else and then there is manipulation of accounts to cancel the debts, that is what we are worried about,” he added.

Also in 2015 the ministry made another payment of $23,959.40 to the sportswear company.

A Ministry of Economy official Ashneel Prasad said they had so far recovered $6800.

Using taxpayers money to cater for social activities, RatuSela said, was unacceptable.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

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