May 11, 2017 12:28 am

$362k to purchase stationery and hardware that were never delivered

Six former employees from the accounts section of PWD’s Divisional Engineer Central Eastern (DECE) were jailed for making 101 transactions to purchase stationery and hardware materials between June and August 2010.

Shavel Stationery Supplies, OnTime Stationery Supplies, and Phoenix Hardware Ltd received 60 cheques worth $362,944. Shelveen Narayan owned all three companies.

At the top of the graft was Ana Laqere, the head of the accounts section and the one who would authorise and countersign all payments to Narayan. She was known to be “vindictive” towards anyone who found or complained about any irregularities in payments.

Laisa Halafi, a clerical officer, was Laqere’s right-hand-woman. Halafi acted as the liaison and coordinated the transactions between Laqere, Narayan, and the accounting department. She would distribute envelopes containing cash to all concerned parties after each transaction.

Vilisi Tuitavuki was the cashier, whose responsibility was to write the cheques and record transactions. Tuitavuki would make payments through “direct vouchering” instead of using the PO and AP module in the FMIS software and would record incorrect details in the department’s books.

Amelia Vunisea, Vaciseva Laqai, and Kiniviliame Taviraki were other PWD employees who helped circumvent Government’s internal financial controls in ordering goods that were not needed and never delivered.

Typically, a purchase order would be raised in Government’s accounting software, FMIS. Two other officers would check and sign the payment vouchers, another officer would “certify” the payment, and the cashier would write up the records before payments are made.

Instead, Laqere would coerce, Halafi would organise, Tuitavuki would obscure, and the others would comply in exchange for their cut in the loot.

Outside PWD, Narayan would cash all cheques and give half of the amount to Halafi after “deducting the amount of VAT”. Narayan deposited $65,200 into Halafi’s late husband’s bank account as Halafi “had to share the money with the others”.

FICAC charged the group in 2013 and High Court Judge Justice Thushara Rajasinghe convicted them after the unanimous guilty verdict of five assessors earlier this month. The former PWD employees still have charges pending in other cases.

The trial lasted two months and prosecution produced 17 witnesses and 103 documents. Laqere, Vunisea and Taviraki gave evidence while the others were silent. Narayan pleaded guilty at the start of the trial.

Justice Rajasinghe said Laqere and Halafi were the main perpetrators of the crimes.

RAJASINGHE: “She (Laqere) is the mastermind behind this scam, while Laisa Halafi acted as the liaison of it”.

The judge told Laqere that she “provided a feasible environment for the co-offenders to carry out the scandalous crime”.

The Verdict

  • Ana Laqere – Found guilty of one count of Abuse of Office and 35 counts of causing a loss.
  • Amelia Vunisea – Found guilty of one count of abuse of office and 34 counts of causing a loss.
  • Laisa Halafi – Found guilty 1 count of abuse of office, 13 counts of causing a loss and one count of obtaining a financial advantage.
  • Vasiceva Lagai – Found guilty of one count of abuse of office and nine counts of causing a loss.
  • Vasiti Tuitavuki – Found guilty of 1 count of abuse of office and five counts of causing a loss.
  • Kiniviliame Taviraki – Found guilty of one count of abuse of office and two counts of causing a loss.
  • Shelveen Narayan – Pleaded Guilty to one count of obtaining a Financial Advantage.

The Sentence

  • Ana Laqere – 10 years with a non-parole period of 8 years.
  • Amelia Vunisea – 8 years with a non-parole period of 6 years.
  • Laisa Halafi – 9 years and eleven (11) months with a non – parole period of 7 years and 11 months.
  • Vaciseva Lagai – 8 years with a non-parole period of 6 years.
  • Vilisi Tuitavuki – 8 years with a non-parole period of 6 years.
  • Kiniviliame Taviraki – 6 years with a non-parole period of 4 years.
  • Shelveen Narayan – 4 years with a non-parole period of 3 years.