Island Times team

(Part 3- investigative article on the US pandemic assistance to Palau under the WIOA program)

Special Prosecutor April Cripps in an interview with Island Times said the investigation is still ongoing and her office awaits the audit report of the Office of the Public Auditor.

She said the investigation is looking into potential fraud, misuse of public funds, and misconduct in the public office of people entrusted with resources meant for the people.

While she refuses to disclose details of the investigation, the SP said the probe will not only cover the PUA disbursement but the other assistance disbursed by that office before the investigation.

She said that just because the fund was sourced from sources outside of Palau, laws in place ensures “funding goes to the right places.”

The SP admits that it would take a couple of months more to conclude the investigation because investigators will comb into years of documents.

There is no clear timeline on when the investigation will be completed while the former director and employees wait for formal charges to be filed against them.

Justice for both accused and those allegedly deprived of the assistance just had to wait.

Meanwhile, the program of disbursing payments for months and weeks filed before September 4, 2021, is expected to continue until January 2022 due to slow processing reports and payments.

Furthermore, WIOA received an additional 18 million dollar grant to address those whose applications were filed but were not able to receive assistance.  “They are now reviewing the files all the way to the beginning.”  Those who filed claims before September 4, 2021, but did not receive assistance may fall under this grant. 

Altogether, the amount received from the United States for pandemic assistance under the US CARES Act and America Rescue Plan is around $50 million, according to President Surangel Whipps Jr.

(The article is made possible with support of Pacific Anti-Corruption journalists network.)

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