Government scolds Fiji Times: Adjustments, not Write-Offs

The Fiji Times newspaper has come under fire from the Ministry of Economy over an article highlighting write-offs in the 2015 Auditor General’s report.

Staff Writers

June 9, 2017 8:14 pm

The Permanent Secretary for Economy, Makereta Konrote labelled the article as a “gross overestimation and a complete misrepresentation of the Ministry’s accounts for that period.”

In a letter to the Editor of the Fiji Times today, Fred Wesley, Konrote demanded “a prominent retraction and apology.”

The lead story in the newspaper on Thursday, under the headline “$12.5m write-off”, said that the “Economy Ministry had written off $12.5 million in 2015 resulting in a loss to the ministry and the Government”.

This cover story on 08 June in the Fiji Times has attracted a sharp rebuke from the Government.
This cover story on 08 June in the Fiji Times has attracted a sharp rebuke from the Government.

Konrote explained that a “validation exercise” was conducted in 2015, resulting in adjustments to “better specify and more accurately portray accounting entries.”

KONROTE: “In reality, $351,453.34 was written off from the Ministry of Economy’s accounts in 2015. The Fiji Times has incorrectly conflated a total of $12.1 million made in adjustments by the Ministry in 2015 with this sum to arrive at the misreported figure.”

The Permanent Secretary clarified that $12.109 million worth of adjustments were done which did not translate into a loss for Government or qualify as write-offs.

KONROTE: “It would appear that the Fiji Times is either ignorant of this important distinction or has deliberately misreported on these figures.”

The 2015 Auditor General’s Report

Volume Two of the 2015 Auditor-General’s Report contained a section under the heading of “Write Offs” for the Ministry of Economy, then known as the Ministry of Finance.

This table appeared in the 2015 Auditor-General's report, and seems to be the basis for the Fiji Times story.
This table appeared in the 2015 Auditor-General’s report and seems to be the basis for the Fiji Times story.

The report noted that “assets totalling $12,461,333 were written off in the 2015 accounts as approved by the Minister of Finance. The write off of assets accounts for Ministry of Finance and Election Office resulted in a loss to the Ministry and to the government as a whole.

AUDITOR-GENERAL: “Poor control and review of general ledger posting has resulted with posting errors and unreconciled variances for which the Ministry has sought the write off for the above-stated accounts. The risk of fraud and error exists with these accounts.”

The Auditor General recommended that “ledger postings are checked, and reconciliation of account balances are performed thoroughly and efficiently to ensure account balances are substantiated.”

In response, the ministry responded that the exercise was done to clear incorrect postings over the past decade.

“A very exhaustive and robust assessment was undertaken prior to formalizing the request for write off. In fact, OAG had also noted some of these redundant data in the FMIS which needed to be validated and rectified.Moreover, bulk of the anomalies was inherited during the migration roll out of the FMIS, initially underpinned mainly by incorrect mapping between the automated and manual environment.”

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