Call for query into undeposited cash payments
SACKED Chairman for Finance at the Honiara City Council (HCC) Billy Abae has called on authorities to investigate unaccounted revenue collected for the sale of fire extinguishers by the Honiara City Council (HCC).
In a letter to the media, Councillor (Cr) Abae said since starting employment with City Council as finance chairman, the sale of fire extinguishers to all business owners when purchasing of Business Licence was evident.
However, it was discovered from the day to day cash verification for deposit and cash receipt journal check that there is substantial cash from the sale of fire extinguishers that is not accounted for.
“Legally speaking, the Honiara City Council has no regulations that warrant the sale of fire extinguishers.
“Also in the HCC budget 2020 that was passed and blessed by the full council and was gazetted by the Minister for Home Affairs, the fire extinguisher is not featured,” Cr Abae revealed.
Also, in the Business License Ordinance there is no ordinance stating the sale of fire extinguishers along with business licence as was ordered by the clerk and mayor, he added.
“There are other responsible authorities that deal with the permit or sale and distribution of fire extinguishers and not HCC. According to the Ministry of Environment, HCC does not have a permit for the sale of fire extinguishers.”
The former HCC Finance chairman said the process of purchasing of business licenses is business owners are invoiced according to business licence fees schedule as per the type of business stipulated in the business licence ordinance.
“The cost for the fire extinguishers is also added onto the total sum of payment for a business licence, giving an increase or change in business licence fees/charges that was not reflected in the 2020 budget estimate,” Cr Abae said.
The councillor for Vavaea Ward said looking at how the transactions for the fire extinguishers were made, it is very suspicious.
“While all business licence fees and other payments are done to the council are made at the cashier (using MYOB Accounting Systems), all other payments for fire extinguishers on a cash basis are advised by the clerk and mayor to be manually receipted.
“This is by using a private HCC cash receipt book which was not inputted into the day to day MOYB accounting system. Only payments received by cheques for the sale of fire extinguisher were receipted through MYOB,” he stated.
The councillor moved on to question that if the payments were recorded via Cash receipt books then the takings received per day should have been posted within the MYOB accounting system to reflect total cash received on a daily basis.
“Nothing as such has been done when it comes to the selling of fire extinguisher under the Business Licence.
“All cash received under the sale of fire extinguisher would then be taken up to the City Clerk office at the end of each business day. Where that money was taken to and deposited is the question but as stated these cash were never traced in the daily deposit journal or cash receipt journal in the MYOB,” he said.
“The receipt books used to account for fire extinguisher payment were never posted into MYOB Accounting System due to instruction from the city clerk and the mayor.
“The receipt was later taken and kept secretly somewhere for what purpose is unknown.”
Now, the councillor is questioning where the money was taken to and kept.
Cr Abae, therefore, called for a full urgent investigation and audit to be carried out on HCC’s financial transactions to verify and ascertain these claims.
He also called for the suspension of the officers responsible whilst the investigation and audit is carried out, so as not to interfere with evidence.
However when responding to the claims made, HCC Clerk Rence Sore said it must be mentioned that the procurement and sale of fire extinguishers by the Honiara City Council was agreed and approved by The Core Council Coordinating Committee (The 4-Cs).
The function of the 4-Cs is to coordinate the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of Honiara City Council Policy Statement and Policy Translation and Implementation Framework.
“The 4Cs thought that it was wise whilst implementing HCC Policies that in order to protect properties and persons in the city it is a requirement under Physical Planning Section of the Honiara Physical Planning Business License Application Form for vendors and business houses to make compulsory procurement of HCC Approved Fire Protection Extinguishers.
“It must not be overlooked that Councillor Billy Abae was a key member of the 4Cs and the decision to sale fire extinguishers was the decision of the 4Cs including Councillor Abae.
“Other members of the 4Cs are chairpersons of Key Standing Committees excluding the city mayor,” Mr Sore explained.
On the issue of daily collections from the sale of fire extinguishers, Honiara City Council cashier keeps safe custody of all monies and receipts for all sales of fire extinguishers, he added.
The city clerk moved on to warn all officers of the HCC not to mislead the public with fabricated information.
“Any officer found misleading the good public of Honiara will be dealt with accordingly,” Sore stated.
Meanwhile, Cr Abae said the matter will be forwarded to the Leadership Code Commission (LCC) for a full investigation.