An historic and sad day for the Fono Ekepule, changing law to remedy failures in public financial management

Hon. Dion Taufitu (left) and Hon. O'love Jacobsen (right)

An historic event took place in the Fono Ekepule today for the first time in the history of the Niue Legislature to discuss and pass the amendments to the Public Revenues Financial Reporting and Audit Special Provisions Amendment Act 2022.

These amendments to the law essentially make up for the inefficiencies of public servants tasked to control the finances of the country.

The changes to the Public Revenues Act 1959 are to allow for a one-off multi-year audit report of the Niue Government accounts. This multi-year audit will account for Financial Years 2016/17 – Financial Year 2020/21 into a consolidated set of accounts to be audited by Audit New Zealand.

In an emotional intervention veteran Common Roll Member O’love Jacobsen said that this is the first time in the history of the Fono Ekepule that laws were changed to correct a mistake allowed to happen through lack of oversight.

“Today makes history for Niue. This is the first time in the history of politics in Niue that we have had to pass a bill like this, to enable people to come to the island to help put our financial records together so that we can go back to normality”

The amendment to the Revenues Act is specific to this period only and according to government sources that it is not recommended that the government keep doing this as it would be a poor reflection of the government’s management of its finances. 

Members of the Fono Ekepule were concerned about the situation but recognise that this is the only way to resolve the situation with the outstanding annual accounts.

The legislators who spoke today all agree that this is a one-off remedy to an age-old problem and should never be repeated by those tasked to prepare the government’s annual accounts. 

Over the past years, the government’s Treasury struggled to provide the statement of receipts and payments, expenditure accounts, and balance sheets for auditing by Audit NZ as required by Art 60 of the Niue Constitution and section 25 of the Public Revenues Act 1959. 

The amendment bill is necessary to allow the government to submit multi-year accounts in one consolidated financial statement. 

Another veteran politician and former minister Dion Taufitu said that in 63 years since the Revenues Act of 1959 that this is the first time this law has been amended for this purpose to allow for this one-off multi-year audit report. 

O’love Jacobsen said the Fono Ekepule should be held to account for failing in parliamentary oversight which allowed this to happen, where the country’s annual accounts had lapsed for many years.

During her decades in the Fono Ekepule, Jacobsen expressed her sadness and embarrassment that this has happened on their watch.

She said that the public servants tasked to manage the financials of the country are public servants with the highest salaries who have let the country down, and sadly they are still in the public service.

Jacobsen lamented her frustrations over the many years and the many times the issues with regard to the SOE entities’ budgets.

Another veteran MP and former Finance Minister Terry Coe also expressed his concerns that things will not change but he would like to know how these problems can be overcome

 “I’m concerned with this bill. We’re still going to have delays in the accounts. Unless we fix these problems, this is not going to make any difference. There will still be delays because the work is not being done. I look forward to seeing how you are going to remedy these problems with the accounts” said Mr. Coe.

In presenting the Bill, Premier Tagelagi told the Fono that the government’s intention to amend the law to address the capacity issues of the Treasury to compile the full set of annual accounts is supported by the Auditor General of New Zealand.

BCN News understands the auditors will be returning to the island over the coming weeks.

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