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Concern on unidentified land deposits

Manasa Kalouniviti
Wednesday, November 08, 2017

THE Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) issued a qualified audit opinion on the Savusavu Town Council's (STC) 2009 accounts based on four qualifying issues, one of which related to the inclusion of $427,456 in unidentified land sales deposits in the current liabilities.

Without records, a listing, or reconciliations to substantiate these deposits, the OAG was not satisfied that current liabilities had been fairly stated in the accounts.

Public Accounts Committee chairman Ashneel Sudhakar said: "The issue is there are some unidentified land sales deposit sitting in the accounts with no reconciliation and are these amounts liabilities."

STC chief executive officer Dharmendra Lal replied: "Yes, and this amount has been sitting in our accounts since 1985. It's been a longstanding issue with the council and to solve that issue I've been tasked to see how this is affecting our accounts and how we are going to tackle this issue because we're not sure of this amount at all. It has been reflected for a very long time."

He said they tried to advertise in the daily newspapers to see if the deposit belonged to anybody and whether they have deposited that money with council on some land so they can qualify for a refund, yet they didn't receive a response.

"We can only assume this amount is overstated or reflected in error so we are still working with the Ministry of Local Government whether we can substantiate these deposits into our mainstream accounts," Mr Lal said.

He said they were required by law to only keep accounts for six years and the committee could empower the council to go back and obtain statements beyond six years to see if money was actually paid to the council for these deposits.

Mr Sudhakar said the STC had been taking deposits from the public for land sales that was appearing in the accounts, but there was no reconciliation to identify who paid what amount.

"Wouldn't there be a receipt book or party somewhere," Mr Sudhakar said.

"I don't think we have anything by way of evidence. We even put a public notice in the papers in 2013 saying that anyone who had paid a deposit for purchase of land to come and request the deposit and all they need are proper documents and despite this nobody came up," Mr Lal said.

He said they also tried the old councillors if they had evidence of this account.

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