By IAN M.KAUKUI
THE Honiara City Council (HCC) City Clerk has clarified the alleged fishy payment that appeared in Monday’s paper that claimed to be made towards the death of Late Moses Kaukui, a consultant contracted by the HCC.
Rence Sore’s clarification comes in response to the statement by his former Finance Chairman, Councillor Billy Abae when questioning the Council over what he described as serious evidence of fraudulent and conflict of interest within the council.
Abae said apart from other fishy deals, an interesting case is two separate payments made towards the death of the late Kaukui as appeared in his compiled financial report for the first quarter of the year 2020.
He said on February 3rd 2020, a payment of $50,000 was raised under the name Claire Guna (Cheque no. 101882). This payment was posted under sub-code 6-0442 (Death in office) in the 2020 budget.
When the Solomon Star contacted the immediate family members of late Kaukui, they said they haven’t received any payment of $50,000.00 from HCC. But, there was a $10,000 worth of goods plus transport service received from the HCC during the death of their father.
This is apart from the $15,000 that was paid to the son of the late Kaukui.
Responding to the article, Sore told the local reporters yesterday that the article which appeared in the paper yesterday is not true but misleads the public.
Sore said the article will only be true if it appears at the end year financial report the sum of $50,000.00 for the purpose was misused.
“The report published in the Solomon Star Newspaper is not true. The true picture will only come out at the end of Financial Year when the Financial Report comes out,” he said.
He said it will only be true if the audit picks it up and to say it’s a fishy deal that is not true.
Sore said the late Kaukui was a member of the HCC Family and it is customary that the head of the family meets funeral expenses of a family member when he dies.
“It is customary also that we do not talk about how much we spent for funeral and burial expenses and to ask for how much is spent, culturally is not right,” he said.
Sore then admitted that a sum of $50,000.00 was withdrawn in the form of petty cash for a specific purpose.
He said during the course of Kaukui’s death, that is on a Saturday, representatives from HCC the likes of City Mayor, City Clerk, and EPS visited the family and friends of the late Kaukui at the morgue to pay respect and share condolences.
“We were the first officers of the HCC family to go and pay respect at the morgue with the immediate family and we also gave part of the $50,000.00 to the representatives to cater to the immediate needs.
“We supply food and ration from the day of passing until Tuesday, the day of his burial,” he added.
He said HCC also bought wreaths/flowers for the City Mayor, City Clerk, Councillors, and Heads of Divisions for service in preparation for the burial.
“Three-tonne vehicles were also hired by HCC to enable movement of people from the Morgue, Church, and burial site.
“That is where the money went and is not a fishy deal as it was mentioned on the paper,” he said.
When asked if it is legal to spend outside of the budget since the $50,000.00 was not budgeted for in the 2020 Budget, Sore said there is a legal process called virement that could be done to reallocate the certain potion of the budget to it.
Sore added beside the $50,000, Late Kaukui was a consultant contracted by HCC under a one-year consultancy contract and his contract for the last month was paid.
“To further add, HCC has fully paid the outstanding consultancy bills of the late Moses Kaukui to his family in January.
“Not only that, under my discretion as a City Clerk, I also authorised payment if the additional token of $10,000 to be paid to the family,” he said.
Meanwhile in response to the recent issues raised by the paper with regards to the HCC, Sore said they are looking at taking legal action against this paper for defamatory purposes.
“Due to the fact that the Attorney General’s Office is busy with COVID-19 Pandemic measures, the HCC is making alternative arrangements with a private legal firm to represent the council in a legal; suit of defamatory,” he said.
“HCC on our behalf is engaging a legal firm to represent and to clear our name that was defamed by the mainstream media and social media,” he added.
He then encourages those HCC critiques to forward all allegations of misconduct in the office if they wish to the Leadership Code Commission (LCC), should they have evidence to support their claims.
Sore added they are also engaging an audit firm to prepare accounts for 2016 to 2018 for audit proper.
“We will go immediately to prepare books for 2019 for auditing. Your allegations of ‘missing money’ and ‘fishy payments’ can be audited by the auditors,” he said.