Government’s not shouting your beer

Friday 16 April 2021 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in Local, National


Government’s not shouting your beer
An aerial view of Mitiaro. PHOTO: Air Rarotonga

The former executive officer of the Mitiaro Island Administration tried to use government money to buy $177 of personal alcohol but was stopped by a shopkeeper, an audit office report has revealed.

The report follows a review on December 22 last year by the Cook Islands Audit Office of a complaint concerning allegations of the misuse of public funds by the island’s former executive officer (EO), Charlie Rani.

It found on April 13 last year, Rani wanted to personally sponsor the boys at the Mitiaro Fishing Club with two cartons of beer. He told the shopkeeper to charge the beer to his personal account.

The day after, Rani attempted to get the Mitiaro Island Administration to cover his bill but the shopkeeper refused. He told Rani it was a personal sponsorship so he’ll have to pay for the beer out of his own pocket.

The Audit Office report said: “In our view it was wrong for the EO to try and use a government stores order to pay for his personal account. This behaviour and practice must stop immediately.”

One of the recommendations of the report was to “cease the improper practice of trying to use government stores orders to pay for his personal expense”.

Rani was the executive officer until January this year. He declined to comment on the report when approached by this newspaper yesterday.

The report also confirmed that alcohol was used for Mitiaro Island Administration functions on three occasions. In the recommendations, it said it should not happen “unless approved and appropriated by Parliament”.

The report found the Administration overpaid Rani by $1900 over three separate occasions, and an unnamed finance officer by $1200 on another occasion. The incidents of overpayments were from when Rani and the finance officer attended travelling workshops.

In the recommendations, the audit report asked for both Rani and the finance officer to reimburse the Mitiaro Island Administration for the overpaid funds.

In an email attached to the report, in late December last year Rani said he was paying back the money he owed.

The last piece of criticism by the report was that the record-keeping at the administration was “poor and unsatisfactory”.

The report said that “keeping and maintaining proper records is encouraged to provide assurance that expenditures are valid, legitimate and bona fide”.