The Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa National Provident Fund (S.N.P.F.), Faumuina Esther Poutoa, has denied any wrongdoing in the transfer of two prime land properties owned by the Fund at the Vaitele industrial area.
She has also reassured that the S.N.P.F Board takes extreme care to address issues of conflict of interest (C.O.I.) with such transactions as per N.P.F. Act 1972.
Faumuina made the point in a written response to questions from the Samoa Observer.
Two weeks ago, a member of the public identified as “King W” raised the concerns in a letter titled “Alleged conflict of interest or nepotism?”
He questioned the decision by S.N.P.F. to authorise the transfer of such properties to a member of the Board.
“I am thankful that the Prime Minister in one of his press programmes emphasized the need for people holding government positions, whether C.E.Os in Ministries, Corporations or Directors in Government Public Enterprises, to either declare their interest or stay out of holding such positions, when it comes to decision making where public assets, are tendered for lease or sale,” King W. wrote.
“At the same time, the concerned public enterprise should ensure that such asset is advertised publicly. What amuses me is the latest transfer of two prime land properties owned by N.P.F. in the Vaitele Industrial Area. The first one is a block of land behind the Yazaki buildings, which has now been fenced off.
“The second area is another block of land behind the defunct Desico Warehouse, which I believe has also been transferred to the same people.
“I would like to ask these questions for the Management and Board of N.P.F., to explain for the sake of all contributors who own N.P.F.:
“Did you advertise these lands publicly or not? Are these lands been sold or leased? How did you end up giving all these prime lands to one family/Contributor? How did you know that no one else is interested in these lands? Why is this one family/Company being enriched through ownership of public assets owned by N.P.F. contributors? Is the new owner of these lands, still sitting in as Director of N.P.F. Board?”
In response, Faumuina wrote:
“We wish to respond to some of the queries raised relative to the N.P.F properties in question.
1. These properties at Vaitele are N.P.F. properties leased to two different entities in the private sector.
2. The Samoa National Provident Fund (S.N.P.F.) is a body corporate and owner of real and personal property amongst other things. S.N.P.F. has various duties relating to its assets and it already has policies and procedures in place for dealing with such properties including its leases. The procedure regarding lands that have been identified to be leased is that these lands are advertised publicly; once the bids are received they will be reviewed by S.N.P.F’s properties division for a decision and subsequently awarded to the winning bidder.
The decision to award which could be made by the Board or Management is based on criteria which include the current financial position of the bidder, the ability to service the lease and the bid price.
Certain properties are not part of the lands put aside for leases as they are either part of land already leased or any other reason. If there is a request to lease such land by any member of the public, Management has the discretion to make a decision regarding such request on a case by case.
The same process applies which is a review by the Properties division of the request. This review is also based on the current financial position of the bidder, the ability to service the lease and the bid price. The ultimate goal for S.N.P.F. is to ensure that it’s assets with a potential to earn money for its members are fully utilised whenever the opportunity arises.
3.With regards to the raised concern about a conflict of interest (C.O.I) with these leases, section 9 (1) of the NPF Act 1972 addresses this and it states that a director who has either a direct or indirect interest in a matter being considered or about to be considered by the board, shall disclose that interest at the meeting of the board and then subsequently leave the meeting for such matter to be discussed. NPF has complied and has ensured that directors do declare a direct or indirect COI and are not present at the meeting when such matters are discussed.
Faumuina Esther Poutoa