Why is S.L.C.’s $4.4 m complex still vacant?

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

Why is it that it seems our government is always reveling in the task of embarking on projects, that cost scores of millions of dollars in public funds, and yet along the way those projects are invariably deemed bankrupt, so that soon they are abandoned.

Remember Polynesian Airlines that owned a fleet of Boeing aircraft at one point in time? Well, it had potential all right, but then its senior staffers were so corrupt  that the airline was declared bankrupt, and then soon afterwards it ceased to fly. 

And then there was the Aleipata Wharf. 

Since it was located much closer to American Samoa than our  main wharf in Apia, sailing between the two countries then was both shorter and cheaper, so that for quite sometime, like it or not, it was indeed, a dream come true.

But then along the way, government corruption intervened, so that Aleipata Wharf was closed down, and yes indeed, it has remained closed to this day. 

Now sadly for everyone though it looks as if the past is repeating itself, given the mess in which the government’s Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C.), is enmeshing itself in today. (Samoa Observer, 08 July 2017.)

The story is that for quite some time now, the government has been trying to sell S.L.C.’s headquarters at Tuana’imato for $4.4 million. 

Although a number of bidders had expressed interest, not one of them had made a firm commitment, so that the property is still available.

Asked for a comment though, a senior S.L.C. officer said: “There are a number of bidders and we are working on it now.” 

Incidentally, the three-story, concrete building, had apparently been “abandoned since 2014” and since then, the government has been looking for someone to rent it. 

Reports said the organization, Hope for Cancer, had shown interest in the building, and yet the Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Fio Purcell, has revealed that “no commitment had been made.” 

Lautafi went on to say that during an interview, “the Committee the government had appointed to deal with Hope for Cancer, has been disbanded” after it had been asked by Hope for Cancer, to give them more time.”

Now according to Lautafi, “that means there is no need for the three C.E.O.s who had been appointed by the government, to work with ‘Hope for Cancer’.”

Instead, the Minister said they could look at other organizations, such as F.A.O., the Peace Corps and others, as potential tenants for the government’s S.L.C. Building.  

Said he: “That’s why we are continuing with this process as usual. So if anyone wants it, there’s a chance to submit a proposal.”

Incidentally, the Corporation vacated the three-story complex at Faleata Golf Course in 2014, and moved it offices to the top floor of the Vaitele Market, just up the road.  

And then in April 2015, Cabinet announced that the complex could be converted to a commercially-owned accommodation facility, and that was when complications arose. 

They did when the “original tender did not stipulate non-negotiable conditions and that allowed the parties to include issues that were outside the original tender scope in their negotiations,”  and from there “the government said it had exhausted all options available to accommodate the business proposals, and in the end they could not agree on a compromise.”

That was when “Cabinet approved to re-advertise the tender,” Laufaiu said. “These things happen. It is normal in business transactions.

“While every effort is made by Government to encourage and assist local businesses, we have to ensure Government assets are protected.”

“The new tender will include specific details, requirements will be very clear on what is on offer and what can be negotiated and what can’t. The tender document will be made very clear to parties involved.”

“This will minimize a repeat of events highlighted during the last tender process negotiations.”

Now is that so? 

How about the government’s price of $4.4 million, for the three-story complex it had announced, in April 2015? Would it remain if someone else would show up, and declare their interest in buying the complex? 

And while we are on prices, why did Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, allow his government to be duped into becoming a party to this silly undertaking, knowing full well that they really did not need such a grossly, costly complex as it is now being made manifestly clear, by their eagerness to distance themselves from it?

The point is that this is no time to quibble.

Indeed, it’s time to be serious about the meaning of the words, be responsible.

May you have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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