Sometime last week, I received a request from the Samoa Observer investigative reporter, Joyetteer Luamanu, for an interview.
In response, I requested that she should come to my office, where I can give her the proof she’s been seeking.
At that point, it was clear to me that this was why these allegations had come about, since I’d removed them from the recruitment process.
During our interview, I told the journalist that for this company’s (Ascent Naval) interest, it all started in 2014.
Tht was when they approached the Government to establish the Samoa International Maritime Authority (SIMA) that would do vessel registry for Samoa.
In 2015, the company was declared fraud by Samoa MWTI, as this was done without the knowledge of the CEO at the time, Vaaelua Nofo. Internal investigation was conducted and Vaaelua at the time ceased everything with regards to SIMA.
In January 2016, when I was just appointed CEO internal (ACEO Maritime) advise was given to me to consider starting vessel registry. Without prior knowledge I directed to seek approval from cabinet (PK) for vessel registry as there are economic benefit for Samoa with registry fees and job opportunities on locally registered vessels. Two companies were nominated and proposed for approval including Ascent Naval, Thailand.
With appropriate approvals in November 2016, authority was given to Ascent Naval and another company and the Philippines to proceed with the registry and related works.
Two months later (February 2017) this company, Ascent Naval was brought to my attention by our overseas mission in New York that was declared fraud by Samoa in 2015.
Immediately after, I revoked the authority given to Ascent Naval and investigated internally. I retrieved all documents from officials who conducted the investigation in 2015 including the notice to IMO and the people who were involved. Two people from the Ministry were identified to be involved but denied any knowledge and involvement. Matter was discussed with the AG at the time but it did not proceed to any conclusion.
With the approval from cabinet, and the genuine approach from shipping agents including Ascent Naval, we restarted the recruitment process with the call for Expression of Interest from May 2017. This was due in July in which 3 companies showed interest which are Korean KR, Iranian ICS, and Ascent Navals from Thailand. Ministry with AG office is preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the selected companies.
We received reports recently that Ascent Naval is continuing their vessel registry, in which they were issued with a warning reminding them of revocation of authority and the possibility of removal from process if continue.
Last week on the 27th May to 4th June, IMO was here to conduct an audit and informed that a lot of vessels are registered under our flag through Ascent Navals and other companies, thus on the 27th of May I told the director of the company off via text and informed them of being removed from the vessel registry. I guess this is why he wrote to PSC because of their removal.
These allegations is due to their frustration from numerous visits to Samoa and offers to myself and the ministry that I continued to deny. He even offered a proposal to Samoa Shipping Corporation which was also denied. These people are so demanding and the approach of bribing officials that I never accepted. Had there been any offers accepted I would have been hesitant to remove them from the selection process.
Sorry for the delayed reply but the allegations by this company requires a coordinated response in light of facts in place.
Manuia le afiafi.
Afamasaga Su’a Pou Onesemo
C.E.O. Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure