11 Oct 2018

Niue defends accounting issues, blaming NZ Auditor General

10:37 am on 11 October 2018
Toke Talagi

Sir Toke Talagi Photo: RNZ/ Indira Stewart

Niue's Premier has hit back at New Zealand's Auditor General, saying his office's work in Niue has been shoddy and will be independently assessed.

The office has warned Niue of unexplained revenue shortfalls and a budget blowout.

The issues emerged during an audit of the country's 2015 records, which has been held up - along with subsequent years - because of a lack of accounting.

Sir Toke Talagi said it was inappropriate for the Auditor General to raise the issues in a letter.

He said the office's auditors were to fault for any issues.

"They cannot continue to say that the money has been this, this, this and this. So, what I have initiated is an evaluation if you like of the work the auditors have done to determine whether we're getting value for money," Sir Toke said, adding that the Auditor General was to blame for the backlog because he had failed to issue Niue with annual reports.

The Auditor General normally provides its reports to Niue at the end of each audit, but had been unable to because of Niue's lack of financial statements since 2015, Deputy Auditor General Greg Schollum said in the July letter.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Auditor General said the situation remained "largely the same".

Sir Toke wouldn't comment on the contents of the letter, but said he was tired of auditors being sent over from New Zealand only to deliver no results.

Niue had done its job because it had passed this year's budget, he said.

In the letter, Mr Schollum asked Niue's government to address financial discrepancies from 2015, including unexplained revenue shortfalls of $NZ820,000 and a budget blowout of $NZ1.2 million.

Niue should commit extra resources to its Tax Office and require Treasury to review its policies for dealing with missing tax returns, Mr Schollum said.

Sir Toke said Niue had already transformed its tax office and put in place stronger financial systems and processes.

"If he's not aware of the reforms that we have done then I can't help him, he needs to come and ask me if he wants to ask me.

"You can't speculate on those things in a letter."