In its report on the ministry, the committee listed a number of incidents in which procedures proved inadequate or non-existent.
Many related to the 2015 Te Maeva Nui event and involved the hiring and non-payment of workers.
In some cases, workers’ wages were put into ministry staff accounts because they did not have their own bank accounts.
The audit report on Te Maeva Nui found that the process followed by the Culture ministry in the engagement of workers for the celebration was not transparent.
There were discrepancies in the management of timesheets of workers engaged for the celebration, resulting in the Audit Office not being able to conduct an independent verification of the overtime and wages payments made to workers employed during the TMN.
Transfer of TMN workers’ wages by the Manager Finance and Administration totalling $1671.92 went into her bank account and $5458.64 into her uncle’s bank account without proper written authorisations from the workers. The audit found that $499.19 of the amount deposited into the uncle’s account has not been paid to the concerned worker.
The process followed in the engagement of contractors to provide service or product for the ministry during the 2015 TMN was not conducted in a transparent manner.
The Manager Finance and Administration’s sister was engaged to provide professional services without a proper written contract. The former Head of Ministry and the manager were not able to explain how the payment of services of $3000 made to her was determined.
Double re-imbursements of instalment payments for a TMN contract totalling $1700 were made to the ministry by MFEM based on documentations provided by MOCD.
The former Head of the Ministry failed to put in place sound financial management systems and stringent internal controls to ensure the effective management of funds allocated for the event.
The breaches in financial policies and the actions of the Manager Finance and Administration’s in dealing with the TMN workers’ wages directly indicates poor and inadequate oversight on his part as the former Head of the Ministry.
The Public Accounts Committee recommendations were:
• That the Secretary of the MOCD consider the purchase and use of a clock card machine to efficiently track the hours worked by TMN casual staff and other casual staff employed by the ministry.
• The need for the ministry to re-look at its policies, process and procedures to ensure that they are transparent, effective and appropriately managed.
• That the Secretary of the MOCD take immediate steps to pay out the sum of $499.19 as indicated in the Audit Report and all other unpaid wages to the TMN casual staff concerned before the end of the 2016/2017 Fiscal Year. It is the view of the PAC that the benefit of the doubt rests with the employees.
• That the Secretary of the MOCD take immediate steps to recover the sum of $857.50 from the Edgewater Resort and Spa and return the said amount to MFEM before the end of the 2016/2017 Fiscal Year.
• The committee notes the MOCD’s continuing efforts in addressing the recommendations contained in the Audit Report and recommends that MOCD provide an update on the implementation outcomes in its Annual Report to parliament for the 2016/2017 Fiscal Year.
• The committee respectfully invites the Financial Secretary to provide to the committee a written update on his implementation of the recommendation and request by the Audit Office.
• With the success of the MOCD transference of its key financial management functions to MFEM, the committee recommends that government consider similar strategies for smaller ministries and agencies of government.
• The committee recommends that parliament consider the request of $15,000 and approve its inclusion in the 2017/2018 Appropriation for the MOCD to support the work of the newly established Maori Language Commission.
• The committee recommends that parliament considers the request of $40,000 and approve its inclusion in the 2017/2018 Appropriation for the MOCD to empower the ministry in its enforcement of the Cook Islands Copyright Act 2013.
• That MFEM reconsider its current policy of offsetting operations against trading revenue across all ministries and implement the necessary adjustment to the policy.
• The committee recommends that MFEM develop proper guidelines for the management of sponsorship money and other resources sourced by ministries to supplement the costs of events organised by them.
In addition, the Audit Office made recommendations to improve and strengthen the existing controls covering TMN celebrations.
• That the current HOM of the Ministry of Cultural Development should ensure that a proper process for engaging workers for the TMN celebration is followed.
• It is recommended that all positions for the TMN celebration are advertised; application forms are filled by prospective workers; a proper appraisal of the applications received is conducted before deciding who to engage - which should be appropriately documented – and appointment letters are issued to workers so they are aware of the terms and conditions of their engagement.
• MOCD was also asked to ensure that stringent controls are put in place for the proper recording, checking and overall management of timesheets of workers engaged for the TMN celebration.
• Supervisors for each area should ensure that the timesheets are filled in by workers daily and that they are checked for accuracy. The Finance Department should ensure that the details entered into the database - which forms the basis of the wages and overtime amount paid to workers - agree with the actual timesheet records.
• The Audit Office also instructed the MOCD to immediately cease the practice of depositing wages of part time workers during the TMN celebrations into MOCD staffs’ bank accounts. If workers do not have a bank account then they should be required to provide written approval for their wages to be deposited into another bank account of their choice. Proper documentations should be maintained by the ministry as evidence for such approval.