Friday, October 23, 2020

Auditor General sniffs another embezzlement of National disaster fund

The Auditor General, Pulane Letebele has alleged that there is yet another misuse of the National Disaster Relief Fund. The Fund which is housed at the Office of the President has recorded total expenditure of P3 167 188 out of which P804 096 and P1 076 872 have allegedly been inappropriately used for building houses in Tonota and procuring some equipment respectively. The misappropriation according to the audit report happened during the financial year that ended 31 March 2015.  

Fresh from information contained in the same report further shows that the funds were re-channelled towards building houses in Tonota and satellite villages as well as procurement of equipment such as boat trailer, boat shelter, boat covers, camping beds and sleeping bags. 

In a brief comment, the Auditor General notes in the report that his expenditure analysis of the National Disaster Relief Fund shows that the Office of the President used the fund on housing which appears under destitute housing, “which would be inappropriate for funding from the fund”. 

According to Letebele, the purpose of the National Disaster Relief Fund is to provide financial assistance to natural disaster victims by meeting the cost of reconstruction and repairs to their shelters and as such other costs related to disaster relief as the minister may approve. 

“While I may not doubt the possibility of disasters around Tonota district at the relevant time, I am however at a loss to appreciate the manner in which the relief measures were applied in this instance.” 

Letebele insists that provision of houses in Tonota relief is on the pattern of destitute which falls under the country wide destitute housing programme under the ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.  

At the same time Auditor General says he was not able to contextualise the relevance of the procurement of boat accessories and camping beds from the Fund. 

“As my attention has not been drawn to neither other areas of disaster in the year under review, nor does incurrence of expenditure reflect such, I was unable to contextualise the relevance of the procurement of boat accessories and camping beds from the fund,”  a footnote under the National Disaster Relief Fund partly reads.  

In 2009 the Office of the President was slammed for diverting close to P12.4 million in the accounts of the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) from its intended use to the formation of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS). The money was drawn in two tranches; P13 million to buy equipment, houses and for training purposes. Shortly after the P13 million was exhausted a second trench of P3 million was drawn. 

Fast forward to 2015, while appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, an accounting officer at the Office of the President (OP), Kebonye Moepeng, was at pains to explain how the disaster management fund accounts were balanced off without the monies being paid back.

She told the PAC that she had thought the issue had been addressed.
She, however, admitted that there were errors in their accounting books and committed to make some corrections and re-submit the report which includes how the money was used.

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