Niue defends accounting issues, blaming NZ Auditor General

Niue's premier Sir Toke Talagi . Picture: RNZ

ALOFI, 11 OCTOBER 2018 (RNZ PACIFIC) – Niue’s Premier has hit back at New Zealand’s Auditor General, saying the office’s work in Niue has been shoddy and will be independently assessed.

The Auditor General’s office has warned Niue of unexplained revenue shortfalls and a budget blowout.

The issues emerged during an audit of the country’s 2015 records, which has been held up – along with subsequent years – because of a lack of accounting.

Sir Toke Talagi said it’s inappropriate for the Auditor General to raise the issues in a letter.

He says its auditors are to fault for any issues.

“They cannot continue to say that the money has been this, this, this and this. So, what I have initiated is an evaluation if you like of the work the auditors have done to determine whether we’re getting value for money,” Sir Toke said, adding that the Auditor General was to blame for the backlog because it had failed to issue Niue with annual reports.

The Auditor General normally provides its reports to Niue at the end of each audit, but had been unable to because of Niue’s lack of financial statements since 2015, Deputy Auditor General Greg Schollum said in his July letter.

Sir Toke wouldn’t comment on the contents of the letter, but said he was tired of auditors being sent over from New Zealand only to deliver no results.

Niue had done its job because it had passed this year’s budget, he said.

In his letter, Schollum asked Niue’s government to address financial discrepancies from 2015, including unexplained revenue shortfalls of NZ$820,000 (US$528,000) and a budget blowout of NZ$1.2 million (US$773,000).

Niue should commit extra resources to its Tax Office and require Treasury to review its policies for dealing with missing tax returns, Schollum said.

Sir Toke said Niue has already transformed its tax office and put in place stronger financial systems and processes.

“If he’s not aware of the reforms that we have done then I can’t help him, he needs to come and ask me if he wants to ask me.

“You can’t speculate on those things in a letter,” he said.

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