29 January 2019
Solomon Islands: Audit team reported to be looking into the alleged disappearance of S5 million shipping grant.
Local veteran investigative journalist, Alfred Sasako, writing in the Island Sun newspaper today claims the Solomon Islands Auditor General is believed to have uncovered $5 million missing having been paid to Gulatate Shipping in 2015.
The Island Sun article read (quote)
“A draft audit of the 2015 Shipping Grants by the Auditor General is believed to have uncovered $5 million paid to Gulatatae Shipping, but the money has gone missing, sources have revealed.
“The payment was made to Gulatatae Shipping in December 2015, the sources said, adding it came from the Ministry of Infrastructure Development’s (MID) Development Budget.
“MID is the custodian of the controversial shipping grants.
“The sources said the voucher, Voucher#INV272567 for the payment, has gone missing. The invoice date on the payment was 31 December 2015, according to those familiar with the missing millions.
“The circumstances surrounding the missing millions suggest that the payment could have been done without a proposal and invoice by the MID and the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.
“However, it is suspected that the funds could have been transferred to a ghost shipping company,” the sources said.
“Gulatatae Shipping is owned by the people of East Kwaio Constituency. Shareholders, however, registered the company as a private entity. The Chief Executive Officer of the company, Eric Arifanata, was removed several weeks ago after raising concerns about the growing debts over non-payment of freight for Constituency cargo.
“It is not clear when the Auditor General’s Audit report of the 2015 Shipping Grants will be released. The finding is the second in similar circumstances. In his recent report, the Auditor General reported a payment of $1 million to a local company, but documents to show who collected the money had disappeared.
“Former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, Harry Kuma, later confirmed that data on the payment had disappeared from the Ministry’s computers.
“Mr. Kuma, who has resigned to contest the 2019 national general election, also said he had ordered the Ministry’s internal audit team to look into the matter.”