Municipal councils criticized for mismanagement of funds

March 27, 2023 12:46 pm

Assistant Minister for Finance and chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Esrom Immanuel (left), Minister of Finance Professor Biman Prasad.

Assistant Minister for Finance and chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Esrom Immanuel, has raised concerns about the mismanagement of funds and the use of capital grants for operational expenses in the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 audit reports on municipal councils.

He also highlighted a backlog of outstanding audited reports due to delays in submitting draft financial statements to the Office of the Auditor General.

“Lack of compliance with the financial reporting framework, lack of compliance with the international accounting standards and lack of compliance with the Local Government Act. The lack of compliance is reflected in the audit opinion issued by the OAG.In the 2018-2020 report, the OAG issued modified or qualified opinions on six financial statements that were audited while eight financial statements were issued with modified with disclaimer of opinion.”

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Immanuel proposed implementing Key Point Indicators for special administrators and chief executives of municipal councils and ensuring government grants are used appropriately.

The Ministry of Local Government has been urged to monitor capital projects’ timeframes to ensure timely completion.

During the parliamentary debate on the audit reports review, Opposition MP Semi Koroilavesau called for a change in the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

Koroilavesau argued that it was unfair for the Assistant Minister for Finance to hold the position.

In response, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad, defended the government’s decision to allow government members to chair the committee.

He stated that the FijiFirst government had changed the Parliament Standing Orders to allow government MPs to chair the committee.

He further added that there was no conflict of interest as the committee was currently reviewing all annual and audit reports that occurred during their leadership.