We repeat, this country needs an Anti Corruption Tribunal!

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

We’ve made the point before and we will make it again. In light of the call by Afualo Dr. Wood Salele to “stop corruption” on the front page of yesterday’s Samoa Observer, we believe this country sorely needs an Anti-Corruption Tribunal. 

There is no time to waste. Yes we agree that the issue has been raised time and time again but we believe that every time it is raised, the need becomes more and more apparent. 

And as the country gears up for the General Elections, we cannot think of any more pressing issue that’s holding this country back from where it should be than the need to address the root cause of all our problems which is corruption.

There is corruption in the public service, corruption in the church and corruption in most places where money, power and promises of riches are involved.

On Tuesday, Tautua Samoa Party’s Shadow Minister of Finance, Afualo Dr. Wood Salele, revived the call for the government to set up an Anti-Corruption Tribunal.

Afualo said instances of alleged corruption identified by the Controller and Auditor General and backed up by the Officers of Parliament Committee give more than sufficient reasons for the establishment of a national body to tackle corruption.

“No one, and I repeat no one, is above the law including the Prime Minister and all of us,” Afualo said. “If we break the law we will make sure that justice will be served.” 

“But that cannot be fulfilled unless we have the Anti Corruption Tribunal.”

“I know Tuilaepa has been saying that we have the Ombudsman and of course we know that but we have seen a lot of cases now where people are not satisfied with the mandate of the office so we really need to make sure that what they do will be fulfilled.”

Afualo said the country has been suffering as a result of the government’s inability to address issues of corruption and abuse of power over the years.

“We all know that there is so much corruption,” he said. 

Afualo praised the decision to set up a National Prosecution Office (N.P.O). But he said such a body is not useful without an Anti Corruption Tribunal.

 “That body (N.P.O.) cannot act if they are not given any prosecutions at all,” he said. “Therefore we will make sure that these national bodies will work together. The Police will also be doing their part but we have to get this information from the grassroots and then pass it on to the National Prosecution Office to do their job.”

It’s not the first time Afualo has made the point. One of the times he has made the point was when he became concerned that the government had dismissed the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C) report.

 “Nothing has been done (about the O.P.C report),” Afualo pointed out at the time. “Our belief is that Samoa has been independent for more than 50 years and it is about time we have a tribunal to answer to the public and how their funds are being used. No one is above the law.”

We couldn’t agree more. 

But we also know that in the past Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has repeatedly rejected the idea.

 “That is why we have the Court and the Ombudsman’s Office,” he said.

Fine. Then how come the O.P.C report for 2010 and 2011 has neither been referred to the Ombudsman’s Office or the Court?

Although Parliament, as a collective body, has passed the O.P.C report in question, subsequently accepting all the recommendations including legal action against the officials implicated, this report has never been allowed to be debated in Parliament. Which means justice has been and continues to be denied by this government.

Here’s the thing, ladies and gentlemen, the government’s response to the O.P.C insists that there was no evidence corruption was involved. In its response, the “government acknowledges the issues raised by the O.P.C in its report and is working to the best of its ability to ensure effective measures are in place and that implementation is monitored closely going forward.”

Really? Now take another look at this one for example. A document obtained by the Samoa Observer reads:

 “One alarming discovery by the O.P.C was the fact that S.L.C approved the upgrade cost of the Elevator (Lift) which originally cost $180,000 and then upgraded by another $310,000 bringing the total cost of a “broken elevator” that was never in operation up to date to $490,000.”

 “I would conclude that this was a “reckless and abusive” decision by S.L.C management to spend its meager funds to upgrade a broken elevator.

 “The question then arises whether S.L.C has filed a claim against the company for the defective elevator since the 10% Retention had been unlawfully released by before the project was completed and moreover before the expiration of the 12 month period under the Agreement.”

That’s just one of them. Another part of the document reads:

 “Cabinet approved $2,800,000 for the construction of the S.L.C Office. However, total cost after completion was $5,219,977.12, a cost variation of $2,419,977.12.

 “According to FK (12) 29 regarding Government’s Tender Process System and guidelines under B4 Schedule, all projects carried out by Government Corporations (S.O.Es) over and above $200,000 must be referred to the Tender’s Board for its deliberations and subsequent recommendation to Cabinet for approval.”

 “However, the $2.4 million of cost variations for the S.L.C Office was confirmed by the O.P.C that it never had the scrutiny of the Tender’s Board or Cabinet’s approval. This raises the question of the legality of the process carried out by S.L.C in contravention of Government policies and procedures as some of the payments included in the summary of cost variations were made to companies co-owned by relatives of a senior official.”

 “One particular case highlighted by the Chief Auditor involved a payment of $202,000 for Landscaping and Nursery services paid to a company which was procured without quotes from other suppliers which the Chief Auditor found to be in contravention of Government’s procurement policies.”

We could go on and on. But you get our drift.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is precisely why this country needs an Anti Corruption Tribunal. We believe this sort of stuff should not be swept under the carpet and ignored. As a country, we must not allow this, if we want to progress.

What do you think?

© Samoa Observer 2016

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