Marshall Islands auditor’s office swamped with fraud reports

Marshall Islands flag Photo: AFP

The Auditor General in the Marshall Islands says his office is being swamped with reports of government fraud.

Junior Patrick told parliamentarians last week there has been a significant increase at local and national levels as well as at the country’s overseas missions.

Mr Patrick said his office did not have enough staff to investigate the rise in reported criminal activity and asked for funding to create four new positions in his Investigation Division.

Between January and July his office recorded 10 new allegations related to embezzlement, abuse of public office and cheque forgery.

Only some of these were being looked into, while others have been added to a growing list of pending investigations.

“These allegations are uncovered during audits and those that are reported from the general public,” Patrick said in his introduction to the latest Semi-Annual Report to Nitijela, which includes audits of dozens of government entities.

The current staff level at the Auditor General’s office “is out-numbered by the number of investigations recorded requiring in-depth reviews,” he said, adding his office needs “additional investigators (bodies)” to handle the investigation load. “It is a challenge when some investigations are complex and there is the issue of time limitation (because of) statute of limitations to work within.”

Junior Patrick is also seeking higher salary levels for Auditor General staff in an effort to recruit and retain qualified staff.

When Auditor General investigators have grounds to believe that criminal laws have been violated, they refer reports to the Attorney General’s office for action.

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