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This section outlines official Press and Media Statements issued by the Ministry of Information and Communications in addition to Press Releases from the Prime Minister's Office and other Government Ministries and Departments.

Auditor General on the management of TERM project funds

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29 August 2013. After a meeting this morning with the Director of Tonga Energy Road Map Implementing Unit, TERM-IU, ‘Inoke Finau Vala, and Principal Economist, Aid Management Division, of the Ministry of Finance and National Planning, Natalia Latu, the Auditor General, Dr. Pohiva Tui’onetoa concluded that the information that he received regarding the finances for the TERM project indicates that funds for TERM has been handled according to standard Government processes and procedures, and in compliance with the Public Finance Management Act.

The meeting between the three parties was convened to address allegations raised in some media outlets that the TERM remains outside of the national budget, and that its financial accounts are out of reach of the scrutiny of the
Auditor General. These unfounded allegations were dealt with by informing the Auditor General of how project funds and TERM’s operating costs are being handled.

The Director of TERM-IU said that money for projects is being handled by the donors themselves, and they settle payments according to the terms of contracts that they have signed with the implementing firms or consultants.Recruitment of contractors or consultants went through the normal procurement processes of government, and those of the development partners. No project money is being kept or handled by TERM, whose function, with regards to projects, remains that of a facilitating, monitoring and coordinating body to ensure the timely and efficient execution of activities under its mandate.

The cost of operating TERM is covered from overseas sources, and is included, for the current financial year, as a budget item under the vote of the Ministry of Lands, Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources. As such all orders, vouchers and payments by TERM for operations and administration, again complying with the normal procurement processes of government, can only be authorized by the CEO of the said Ministry. Because TERM adheres strictly to the dictates, discipline and processes of the financial management regime of the Government, its records are open for examination, including the carrying out of an audit of its finances.

The openness and availability of TERM financial records was confirmed by Natalia Latu, who said that development funds provided for TERM are all part of the budget and has been so since 2008/2009. All funds, including TERM
development funds are audited, and the public accounts of 2011/12 (recurrent and development) are currently being finalized. Public accounts of 2012/13 are to be finalized in December 2013.

Ms Latu pointed out that the World Bank manual of operations requires an audit of the World Bank project with TERM-IU (the Tonga Energy Road Map Institutional and Regulatory Framework Strengthening Project) be conducted once a year, and a report sent before December 31st of each year. The project for strengthening TERM-IU was signed on August 3, 2012 so the one year has just been completed, and TERM-IU will inform the Auditor General’s Office shortly, and request an audit to be undertaken.

The Director of TERM-IU said that TERM is under the direct monitoring of the Development Partners and two Ministries, namely the Ministry of Finance and National Planning and the Ministry of Lands, Environment, Climate
Change and Natural Resources.

“Therefore in addition to the rigors of meeting the internal controls of the Ministries”, ‘Inoke Finau Vala said, “the checks and balances required to reach the point of “No Objection” from the World Bank as lead development
partner, also provides another layer of protection to ensure that finances, procedures and processes are transparent and in line with the best practices of good governance and strong fiduciary responsibility”.

The Auditor General said his recent statement in the media simply reflects the normal professional skepticism of an auditor working with sometimes limited and incomplete information. Since the political reform, and new policies in Government, the office of the Auditor General, who now reports to the Speaker of the House, no longer receive copies of Cabinet Decisions, as was previously the normal practice when the Auditor General reported to the Prime
Minister. This means that the office of the Auditor General have no point of reference, and only rely on fragments of information given to them from the Ministries and agencies. They do not have the complete picture, and this gap
can sometimes become evident in the public statements emanating from his department.

Dr. Tui’onetoa thanked the Director of TERM-IU and Natalia Latu from the Ministry of Finance and National Planning for the information session, and hopes that similar meetings be held in the future to ensure that everybody is working from the same page.

ENDS.

Issued by: Dr. Pohiva Tui’onetoa, Auditor General, Balwyn Fa’otusia, Acting CEO, Ministry of Finance and National Planning, ‘Inoke Finau Vala, Director, TERM-IU). For more information please visit Web:www.energy.gov.to, Ph: (676) 24794 / 27126 or Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated ( Monday, 02 September 2013 15:13 )
 
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