12 Dec 2019

Auditor-General unable to find how Tokelau's government spent $10 million

7:53 am on 12 December 2019

The Auditor-General has been unable to find how Tokelau's government spent $10 million.


Tokelau pictured from space. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It's the latest concern raised by the New Zealand enforcer into fiscal spending by Tokelau, which New Zealand provides with around $13m in aid each year. The Auditor-General is responsible for auditing Tokelau's government accounts but an audit backlog stretches back to 2016.

The latest available audit for the year ended June 2015 found insufficient documentation to support $9.9m in personnel costs, as well as for a further $1m in revenue from a community services levy.

"I am therefore unable to determine whether there are material misstatements in these amounts," said Auditor-General John Ryan, according to a copy of the December 2018 audit report, which was obtained under the Official Information Act.

There were also no records kept for $19,000 in credit card spending by Tokelau government employees, Ryan said.

Heto Puka, a former finance director who was working in Tokelau's government during the audited period, said "documentation was always a problem".

"For the [government] office not to be able to explain what appropriate documentation for the government expenditure is an issue."

Last year, the Auditor-General asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to step in and improve fiscal controls in Tokelau, prompting New Zealand's Administrator to Tokelau, Ross Ardern, to allocate extra funding to its government.

It came after an Auditor-General investigation into alleged corruption in Tokelau's government that took place in 2014 was stalled by a backlog of audits.

The general manager of Tokelau's government, Aukusitino Vitale, said in an email that he was too busy to respond in detail but the matters raised by the Auditor-General had been addressed.

"The credit card spending relates to the two senior officers who got their contracts terminated."

A spokesperson for Mr Ryan on Monday confirmed the conclusions in December 2018 letter had not been superceded.