Last week, the FSM National Public Auditor, Haser Hainrick, reported on appropriations made under public law 17-68, for the purpose of congressional, "public projects", totaling $1.6 million. The report was filled with negative remarks, for example: "lack of clarity, transparency, and accountability...", and a, "waste of public funds". The funds were, "approved without clear criteria". The report included "public projects" such as:
- Buying sacks of rice, cases of chicken and turkey tail, ramen, coffee, sugar, etc.
- Buying cigarettes from a store owned by a senator with justification that, "these are the best tasting cigarettes."
- Financial assistance to help students pay their old school debts. However, during our fieldwork we collected evidence that students abandoned their classes, did not perform well, expelled, and etc. In essence, this funding is rewarding poor performers and not only competes but sets out to defeat the intent of the already established governments' scholarship programs.
- Growing crops in the backyard which is clearly for personal consumption.
- Fishing projects supposedly to support export based on suspected receipts and for a fishing market that did not exist.
- Vehicles bought and used more for personal needs than for any public purpose.
- Stocking owned retail stores with rice and other inventories under the guise of exporting local produce to out-of-state markets.
- Building and renovating personal residences with public funds.
- Airline tickets.
- Old debts incurred for equipment parts that were discarded years ago because they were of the wrong sizes, not fit, and therefore were wasted in the garbage dump.
- Yearly recurring expenses for municipalities and agencies that did not receive any budget scrutiny and lacked public hearings via which their strategic plans for the future should have been required in order to evaluate how these entities should operate as going-concern and their expected performance outputs to yield public benefits. Lacking any such plans, they don't care because comes next year and the years thereafter and they will still receive government hand-outs, hence continuing to grow the attitude of government dependency.
This past Saturday, Speaker Halbert released his response.
In his response, the Speaker expressed his "shock" at the tone of the report. Explaining that he believes that the report has a political agenda. Speaker Halbert notes the timing of the release of the report, only weeks before the March 3 elections, and the auditor's words, "[p]eople deserve better" as indications of the report's political agenda. The Speaker suggests (but does not clarify) that the audit report is attempting to "influence the referendum in Chuuk", and/or is, "trying to get the people to do something to the incumbents in Congress".
excerpt from Speaker Halbert's letter:
"Mr. Public Auditor, if you did not intentionally try to engage in politics then you are absolutely reckless as to the consequences of your inflammatory rhetoric, especially when it is misleading".
• Read the Full Audit Report.
• Read the Full Letter from Speaker Halbert.