Gov says ASG forced to pay bills not approved according to law

Blames some of his directors — they’re not performing their duties
ausage@samoanews.com

Gov. Lolo M. Moliga told Directors during last week’s Cabinet meeting that the main reason why there are a lot of problems the government is still facing right now, is because some directors are not following the law, while others are not doing their duties as leaders.

Lolo said he just found out recently that a lot of the money the government owed to some local vendors stems from services performed without the knowledge of the directors.

For example, he said, the money that ASG owed to Samoa Marketing was by some ASG employees, without the knowledge of their directors. And according to Lolo, because this action was not done according to the law, the government is forced to pay this vendor.

“All bills the government is paying on time were done according to the law,” the governor said. “For bills that are done without the authority of the government, it keeps happening, because directors are not doing their job.”

Lolo said ASG “is continuing to pay extra money to local vendors, for services that were not authorized by the government. Those services were caused by ASG employees, and they are the ones that should be responsible for these bills — not the government.”

He noted for example computer purchases by the Treasury Department of $6,000 that were done illegally — with papers not signed by the Treasurer (director), but by some Treasury employees.

“That is not how the government’s run. All purchases must first be approved by the government through the directors, before any action is taken. Before any purchase is made, your duty as a director is to check whether your department has enough revenue to cover the purchase.

“Don’t let your employee run the show, while you are just sitting in your office or traveling off-island to attend meeting after meeting. You should know exactly what’s going on in your department,” he told his directors.

Lolo said almost all ASG departments are doing this, and he believes it’s time to put a stop to this practice. He also pointed to purchases being made first, and then purchase orders after-the-fact are signed. “This is not right.”

He said this was happening as well with not only supplies and equipment, but also for airlines ticket. “I just found out that some ASG employees have asked the airlines (or travel agencies) to allow them to travel, but let the government pay for their airfare when they come back.”

To put a stop to this practice, Lolo said he already informed all local vendors that the government will not pay any more bills that are done without the director’s approval, which is usually found on a ‘signed’ purchase order.

The governor then brought up what has allegedly happened to the Department of Human and Social Services, saying he does not want it to happen again.

“Now we see that a huge amount of government money has been transferred outside of the country, because we failed to do our part,” Lolo said, referring to the $200,000 that was allegedly wire transferred as payment to a DHSS off island vendor that Treasury later found was erroneous.

Lolo asked the DHSS director, Taeaoafua Dr. Meki Solomona, who was at the cabinet meeting, to find ways to avoid this problem from happening again. He said each department must have an updated computer system to control this sort of thing from happening.

(Samoa News notes the company the funds were allegedly sent to by DHSS/ Treasury is Advance Solution, Inc., a company operating as a diversified technology company providing integrated computer software solutions and services, according to its website.)

When asked for a comment after the cabinet meeting, Lolo told Samoa News that ASG is still investigating the issue, and he cannot provide any immediate response in regards to what happened until the investigation is complete.

He said he has instructed Attorney General, Talauega Eleasalo Ale to work together with Treasurer, Ueligitone Tonumaipe’a and other directors to find ways to solve the problem.

Depending on the results of the investigation — if it's found to be an illegal transfer of money due to fraud, i.e. hacking, it will not be the first time ASG has fallen victim to such a crime.

In August, 2011, ASG discovered the illegal wire transfer of funds — $1.24 million (or $1,247,083) — to an unknown account at the Vietnam International Bank (VIB). The money remained frozen while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and security officials in Vietnam launched their own investigations into the matter. It was finally returned in 2015.

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