FSM auditors find substantial progress in properly administering FSM Housing Program for government employees

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

November 15, 2020

FSM—The FSM Office of the National Public Auditor (FSMOPA) has released a follow up performance audit on last year’s audit of the FSM Housing Program for FSM employees hired from outside of Pohnpei.  The audit revealed that substantial improvements have been made within the last year but that there are still some steps that need to be taken.

Last year’s audit contained three findings: “Possible non-compliance and lack of documentation to support determination of eligibility”; “Monitoring of the Housing Program could be improved”, and “Inadequacy of regulations for the Housing Program”.

The previous audit found that there were employees that had been locally recruited who were receiving a housing allowance. It found that there were employees who were receiving the allowance who had local spouses or parents who owned houses within normal communting distance.  Some employees were receiving a housing allowance without valid lease agreements. No inspections or housing facilities were conducted on expiration of lease agreements or termination of occupancy. Housing questionnaires were not filled out by beneficiaries at least once a year as required. Lastly, not all housing furnishings and appliances were tagged or recorded.

FSMOPA then suggested that the President take action to strengthen the capacity of the Office of Personnel in the areas of leadership and management, adequate staff, sufficient budgeting and effective system to monitor and evaluate performance.

After last year’s audit, a new law was enacted that separated the Office of Personnel from the President’s Office. A new staff position was added to the new Office of Personnel. The Personnel Specialist

IV/Housing Office was tasked to administer the housing program. Auditors said that the addition of that office has begun to resolve some of the issues that were previously noted such as those relating to housing program benefits for ‘locally hired’ employees and employees whose pay level was below level 26.  However, FSMOPA also noted that a six month performance evaluation of the person in the newly added position did not indicate whether there was any improvement in the issues of maintaining a updated listing/register for all 86 recipients, inspections, completion of housing questionnaires, and other matters.

FSMOPA found that there was substantial implementation of the recommendations on finding one of the previous audit.

On the previous audit’s finding that monitoring of the housing program could be improved the current audit found that the addition of the new position mentioned in the first finding has substantially improved matters in the program.  One of the previous recommendations had been substantially implemented. Another had been fully implemented.  Only the recommendation that the Officer of Personnel review and revise the policies, procedures, guidelines and rules to effectively manage the Housing Program was found to not yet have been fully implemented.  This finding, however, is on its way toward full implementation with a new Director of the Office of Personnel.

FSMOPA found that the two implementation recommendations it previously made under the finding that the regulations for the Housing program were inadequate had been substantially implemented. But again, under the newly appointed Director steps are being taken to fully implement the recommendations.

Within the last year, some employees who had previously been accustomed to receiving a housing allowance even for homes where they lived that a family member owned were surprised to find that they could no longer get that added benefit to their salary.