The Controller and Auditor General, Fuimaono Mata’afa Papali’i C.G Afele Taimalelagi, has responded to questions raised by the Samoa Observer about his role and that of his office, Audit Office, in relation to audited reports.
11th December 2017,
Afioga Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa
RE: EDITORIAL 8/12/17 – PRIME MINISTER TUILAEPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI THE FULCRUM ON WHICH THE WHEEL IS TURNING
I refer to your Editorial of the 8th December 2017. You asked in your Editorial as to where I am and whether I am still Samoa’s Controller and Auditor General. You also said that “it would be good to know”. With the utmost respect, lau Afioga Gatoaitele, please find hereunder is my response to your questions:
AUDITED PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
1. For the last 2 weeks my Staff and I were called before the Finance and the Expenditure Committee (F.E.C.) of Parliament to assist with the parliamentary examination and scrutiny of the Public Accounts for the year ended 30 June 2016.
2. For your information, the preparation and compilation of the Public Accounts is the responsibility of the Chief Executive and Ministry of Finance. It is the responsibility of the Audit Office to audit the Public Accounts.
3. All Public Accounts since my appointment in 2010 which is 7 years now have been audited up to financial year ended 30 June 2016. The Public Accounts for the year ended 30 June 2017 are currently being audited to be completed by January 2018.
4. The submission of the Audited Public Accounts to Parliament through the Speaker of Parliament is the responsibility of the Minister of Finance. The Public Accounts for the year ended 30 June 2016 was submitted by the Minister of Finance to the Honourable Speaker of Parliament on the 20th June 2017 and tabled by the Honourable Speaker in Parliament on the 13th November 2017.
5. The examination and scrutiny by F.E.C of the Audited Public Accounts for the year ended 30 June 2016 commenced in late November 2017 and completed last Thursday 7th December 2017. These are the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act 2001. I am sure that the Chief Executive Officer and responsible staff of the Ministry of Finance, the Honourable Minister of Finance and F.E.C. will be more than willing to assist with Samoa Observer for any further information required on the Audited Public Accounts.
6. The completion of the parliamentary examination and scrutiny by F.E.C of the Public Accounts for the year ended 30 June 2016 last week is proof that since my appointment in 2010, all the Audited Public Accounts up to financial year ended 30 June 2016 have been submitted by the Minister of Finance to Parliament. I believe F.E.C will be more than willing to assist with Samoa Observer for any further information required.
7. False information has been unfairly and rampantly circulated in both the print and social media about the Controller and Auditor General being responsible for the preparation and submission of the audited Public Accounts and the failure of the Controller and Auditor General to submit the audited Public Accounts to Parliament for the last 17 years.
The accusations have even accused the Controller and Auditor General of cooking the books. The books are under the custody, control and accounting of the Ministry of Finance and not the Controller and Auditor General. I believe l have clarified in paragraphs 1 to 5 the truth about the false information being circulated and published. Also please refer to our Information Paper on our website dated 21 November 2017 for corrections and clarifications on some of the false accusations and questions raised in the print and social media. Still the false accusations continue to be spread and published in the social and print media.
AUDIT REPORTS TO PARLIAMENT
8. The Audit Reports to Parliament are different from the Audited Public Accounts. For your information the Audit Reports to Parliament are the responsibility of the Audit Office in terms of preparation and compilation and submission to the Speaker of Parliament. Before the reports of 2012, we combined both our Report on Irregularities and our Main Report on Audit Findings into one Report. From the reports of the financial year ended 30 June 2012 onwards we separated these two reports so that irregularities are given specific attention by the Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional/Parliamentary Offices instead of just the Main Report.
9. The main objective of the irregularity and main reports of the Audit Office are for Parliament and its Committee for Constitutional/Parliamentary Offices to be informed of the weaknesses and breakdown in internal controls in the Executive Government and its Offices and for the Executive Government and its Offices to explain and account to Parliament and its Committee for Constitutional/Parliamentary Offices the reasons and corrective actions for these weaknesses and breakdown in internal controls.
The finances of the Government and the audit report/opinion on the finances of the Government remain captured in the Audited Public Accounts that are examined and scrutinised in detail by the Finance and Expenditure Committee (F.E.C.)
10. Since my appointment in 2010 (7 years now in Office), I have already submitted 11 audit reports to Parliament. I recall your reporters covering the submission of all my audit reports to Parliament in the Samoa Observer in the past. You have correctly identified that 4 had already completed the parliamentary procedures. The other 7 are currently under the scrutiny and examination of the Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional/Parliamentary Offices.
11. We also issued an information paper to the media and also on our website on the 31st August 2017. This was published by Samoa Observer on the 16"’ September 2017. The Information Paper and supporting documents further explained and provided other details on the reports of the Audit Office to Parliament and other duties and reforms. Still the false accusations continue to be spread and published in the social and print media.
12. Before I conclude can I just clarify the application and interpretation of the reporting functions of the Controller and Auditor General under legislations. The principal and primary legislative provision on the reporting obligations of the Controller and Auditor General are laid down in Article 98 of the Constitution of Samoa 1960. Other legislative provision in the Audit Act 2013 and other legislations are supplementary and secondary to the constitutional requirements.
13. In paragraphs 8 to 10 of your Editorial you emphasised Sections 39 and 40 of the Audit Act 2013 and the notification of the Prime Minister before submitting the audit reports to the Speaker of Parliament. Can I now clarify the process for preparing and compiling audit reports to Parliament and the correct application of section 39 and 40 of the Audit Act 20l3 which also follow the principles of natural justice, procedural fairness, right of reply and the international standard on auditing for communicating with those in charge of governance.
i. When the audits of each public entity are completed the audit report is given to the Chief Executive Officers for comment
ii. When the audit reports from each public entity with the Chief Executive Officers comments/inputs are collated and compiled into a Report to Parliament of the Audit Office, the relevant extracts of the Report to Parliament are given again to the Chief Executive Officers for an update comment on remedial actions taken since the completion of the audit.
iii. This extract that is sent to the Chief Executive Officers at this stage of the process is also copied to the Responsible Ministers including the Prime Minister for the Public Entities he is responsible for.
iv. The copying of the Responsible Ministers including the Prime Minister with the extracts is not an invitation to the responsible Ministers to comment. The demarcation of duties and responsibilities between the Ministers and Chief Executive Officers is clear in relation to policies and outcomes (Ministers) and operations and outputs (Chief Executive Officers).
The Responsible Ministers are copied so that they are aware of the issues raised with the Chief Executive Officers and Public Entities that will be reported to Parliament. Responsible Ministers provide oversight on their Chief Executive Officers and Portfolios so this is another essential step in the oversight and accountability process within the Executive Government before the oversight and scrutiny of Parliament and its Committee for Constitutional/Parliamentary Offices.
v. The audits on which the reports to parliament are based are conducted on the operations and outputs including the financing and expenditure of Public Entities. Since the beginning of state auditing internationally it has been restricted to operations and outputs of auditees and their financing and expenditure.
The merits of executive policies and outcomes have been a “no go” zone for the Auditors. The traditional and universal view of the State Auditors internationally is that the merits of executive policies and outcomes of the Executive Government including legislations are the domain of the residents, electorate, media and parliament including opposition parties to scrutinize and oversee.
vi. While these steps in the communication and reporting process are undertaken to recognize and observe the principles of natural justice, procedural fairness, right of reply and the international auditing standards for communicating with those in charge of governance, the report of the Audit Office to Parliament will not be interfered, directed or compromised as a result of these preliminary communications with Chief Executive Officers copied to Responsible Ministers.
You also asked Gatoaitele in your Editorial that “if I am still Samoa’s Controller and Auditor General then why is it that the eight reports to Parliament on Irregularities have not been submitted, tabled and debated in Parliament as they are required by law”.
I believe as you can see in my response above that I have already submitted 11 reports to Parliament. The Speaker of Parliament has tabled all these reports in Parliament. The protocols and procedures of Parliament in relation to audit reports to parliament are well documented in the Standing Orders of Parliament 2016.
The question about the debate of the audit reports in Parliament is one that the Clerk and the Honourable Speaker of Parliament and the Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional/Parliamentary Offices can only answer.
That is the same for questions on the status of parliamentary procedures relating to the examination and scrutiny of the other 7 audit reports submitted to Parliament besides the 4 that you have correctly pointed out as having completed the parliamentary procedures. All l can say is that I believe the parliamentary procedures for the other 7 audit reports with parliament are in progress.
I am sure the Clerk and Honourable Speaker of Parliament and the Parliamentary Constitutional/Parliamentary Offices Committee are more than willing to assist with Samoa Observer for any further information required.
Right now we are also preparing four (4) more audit reports to Parliament to be submitted to the Speaker of Parliament by the end of March 2018. That will take the number of my audit reports to Parliament to 15 reports in 7 years in Office.
The Audit Office can only deliver one part of the chain of state accountability and oversight. It is up to Parliament, the Executive Government, the Media and the Residents/Civil Society to complete the rest of the process.
I trust Sir I have answered your questions satisfactorily in that I am still serving Samoa faithfully as Samoa’s Controller and Auditor General. I recall that this letter is my first direct communication with Lau Afioga Gatoaitele ever since I was appointed to this Office in 2010.
In December 2013, I sent an email to your former reporter, Ms Sophie Price, thanking the Samoa Observer for making me Samoa Observer Person of the Year 2013. This email I think was printed by Samoa Observer in one of your subsequent issues.
I want to do that again now by thanking you and Muliagatele personally for that honour and vote of confidence back in 2013. I trust that the explanations and clarifications on your questions above have given you re-assurance on my non-failing commitment in the service of Samoa and hopefully proving to you that the vote of confidence and trust you had in the Audit Office when you gave me the Samoa Observer Person of the Year in December 2013 was not misplaced.
As I am continued to be accused falsely even up to this day, I just pray and meditate on the sorrowful passion of our Lord who received far more false accusations focusing specifically on the 9th of the 10 Commandments. Every time I do my job I have to be very careful not to break the 9th Commandment as I know that God is watching us all.
Momoli atu fa’amanuiaga ole Kerisimasi ma le Tausaga Fou i lau Aﬁoga Gatoaitele fa’apea le Aﬁoga ia Muliagatele ma le Aufaigaluega. Fa’amalo mo galuega o lenei tausaga. Faia ma le fa’aaloalo tele,
Fuimaono Mata’afa Papalii C.G Afele Taimalelagi
CONTROLLER & AUDITOR-GENERA, SAMOA AUDIT OFFICE
RESPONSE FROM THE SAMOA OBSERVER:
Talofa i lau Afioga Fuimaono,
Samoa’s Controller and Auditor-General,
On behalf of Samoa Observer's Publisher, Muliaga Jean Malifa, Editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa, and the Samoa Observer’s Staff, I want to say thank you very much for taking the time to respond to the editorial in question.
With respect, I also want to say it was never an intension of ours to question you in the carrying out the responsibilities, and the duties of your office.
Ours was simply an effort to find out if there was any truth in the reports that have been going around, in connection with our government’s Audit Public Accounts, for the last 7 years.
And now that you have given a thorough explanation about this very matter, as well as about other alleged discrepancies members of the public have been concerned about, we trust that Parliament and the government will now see to it that the law that they’d made will be obeyed from now on.
Ia manuia tele le Kerisimasi ma le Tausaga Fou i lau Afioga Fuimaono ma le Aiga, ae tainane le Aufaigaluega Mamalu.
Ma le fa’aaloalo tele,
Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa,