With baited breath we are still waiting Prime Minister Tuilaepa

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

Now that the government is in near-complete control of Parliament so that it seems it is virtually ignoring the Opposition as if it no longer exists, the chance from now on of any constructive debate in the House on those pertinent matters that are crucially of public interest, is practically nil.

Let’s take bureaucratic corruption for instance.

This sickness – or governmental evil if you prefer – is becoming the terrible scourge that has, over recent years, been dragging this country slowly and yet surely to its bleeding knees.

All you have to do to be convinced is look around you today and you will see that poverty – the most potent offspring of bureaucratic corruption that is causing all our immediate problems including breeding unseen-before, despicable violence in the home - has grown so dramatically frequent over recent years so that today, it is so commonplace it’s terrifying thinking about it.

The question then is: What might have happened if the government had insisted on obeying the law instead of shunning it as if it did not exist, especially with its handling of the Controller and Chief Auditor’s Reports for the years 2010 and 2011?

Indeed, what might have happened if Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi had not snubbed the reports as if he did not care, and instead attacked those who questioned his decision by accusing them as “idiots and fools?”

And so, let’s go back one more time to C.C.A. Fuimaono Camillo Afele’s reports for the periods ended 30 June 2010 and 30 June 2011, that had been passed on to Parliament, and yet today, they have still not been made public as the law requires.

So what is causing this seemingly baffling delay anyway?

This is what we know.

The reports were tabled in the General Assembly in mid-2012 and yet they were not debated as the law directed. Instead, they were passed on to what was known as the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C.), with the instructions to review them and then get back to Parliament.

That was done.

Later when O.P.C.’s findings were presented to Parliament, they substantially confirmed what C.C.A. Fuimaono had revealed in his reports, the most damaging of which had to do with the Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C.) and a host of alleged corrupt dealings made again it.

At the time of C.C.A. Fuimaono’s reports, S.L.C. was under the tutelage of the former Minister of Finance, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga.

And then another interesting surprise showed up.

This time, it was revealed that the Office of the former Attorney General, Aumua Leung Wai, had joined the fray otherwise known as government corruption, alleged in C.C.A. Fuimaono’s reports.

Later, in an email responding to questions from the Samoa Observer, Aumua confirmed that his office had reviewed the reports by both C.C.A. Fuimaono, and that of the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C.).

 He said: “The review of the O.P.C. and Controller and Chief Auditor’s reports is complete, and was given to our Prime Minister.”

He also said: “My office is not at liberty to disclose the content of such review.”

Incidentally, Aumua himself is a board member of S.L.C.; however, it’s understood he was not personally involved with the reviews in question.

Still, that was not good enough for the Associate Minister of Public Enterprises, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, who questioned the involvement of the Office of the Attorney General, since the reports that had been reviewed by it were highly critical of the government.

He said he was concerned that the issues raised in Fuimaono’s reports and confirmed by O.P.C. involved the former Minister of Finance, Faumuina and S.L.C.

For instance, S.L.C. “did not achieve its budgeted revenue for the financial year under review, 1 July 2008-30 June 2009.”

However, “an estimated actual revenue of $T11 million fell short of the budgeted revenue for that year.”

In addition, “it did not achieve its budgeted revenue for the financial year under review, 1 July 2008-30 June 2009.”

O.P.C. also reported “(the) shortage in revenue earnings during the audited financial years was due to the Corporation being overcommitted to projects it was not able to fund.” 

For instance, there was “an overspent of $2.4 million …” as a result of implementing projects the corporation knew it had no funds for, and in addition, the corporation “paid $2,848,340.00 of fixed assets to a company known as the ‘middle man’.”

It is not clear who the “middle man” is. All that the committee could “confirm” was that the company in which the “middle man” is involved “is based in New Zealand and its local office is at Vaitele.”

The committee report says its concern was raised when “payment of invoices for fixed assets were paid in US dollars instead of New Zealand dollars.”

It also says “the committee noted (that) it was far too expensive for the corporation when purchasing a fixed asset or requiring any consultancy service especially dealing with only one company in the United States.”

Then there was the “fee of $T123,005.51 to the consultant recommended and brought in by the middle man company to conduct operational training for the ‘truck’.”

What truck? It’s apparently “a secondhand water drilling rig bought from the United States.”

According to the Committee of Parliament’s report, Cabinet approved a cost of $T1,899,968.00 for that truck, with the import duty on top of $292,242.10. And yet the cost paid by the Corporation for the same truck was $2,192,210.90.

Whether that truck is now in operation is not clear. As for the “middle man company” that acquired it for the Samoa Land Corporation, its name is mystery no more.

The Committee of Parliament has now confirmed that its real name is Seyleck Global Supplies (SGS).

It is located at Vaitele but it is apparently “managed and operated by a Samoan businessman living in New Zealand.” The rest about it is still mystery.

However, the Committee of Parliament says “the Audit findings have indicated that the review of S.L.C.’s trade debtors reveal that $T1.5 million represented 76 per cent of total trade debtors.”

Then there is the seemingly ubiquitous “Lexus Vehicle” which “the corporation bought for the Minister at the cost $T399,105.90,” when the cost indicated in the “budget submission was $200,000.” Says the committee report: “(Our) only concern was that it did not go through the usual procurement procedure.”

And that concern, the Committee of Parliament is saying, is just as significantly relevant in relation to other S.L.C.’s development projects such as the Faleata Golf Course, the Salelologa Market, the Vaitele Market and its own Headquarters at Faleata which have already been completed and in operation, and yet the corporation has so far not paid any withholding taxes to the Inland Revenue department.

Explains the Committee of Parliament: “The committee is mindful of substantial amounts of outstanding debts arising from unpaid taxes on these projects, especially the infrastructure projects heading through the South Pacific games in 2007.

“The committee noted (that) a sum of $3,175,360.00 of withholding taxes was never paid to the government during that period.

“This behavior is completely unacceptable. Unfortunately the corporation still went ahead with other developments (thus) continuing this illegal practice.”

Incidentally, as “the Committee of Parliament has confirmed, the estimated cost of S.L.C.’s headquarters is $4,495,978.67,” and since “the variation difference of $1,695,979.67 exceeds the original cost” the “project variation” should have been approved by Cabinet.

And that, like it or not, was how S.L.C., one of the government’s most well-heeled corporations lorded over by the former Minister of Finance, Faumuina, looked from afar at the time.

It looked like a wealthy private company with a penchant for lavish overspending, which was apparently why it had deliberately been disregarding set down, prudent management guidelines aimed at safeguarding public assets.

And since it had also been ignoring the need to be accountable to the public, its management then should have been replaced there and then, and yet this was not to be the case.

Instead, reviews that appeared to have been aimed at scuttling C.C.A. Fuimaono’s reports for the periods ended 30 June 2010 and 30 June 2011 had been carried out, but then what had become of them the public was never told.

And neither had the public been given the chance to look at Fuimaono’s reports.

That was five years ago.

And today, as bureaucratic corruption is spreading uncontrollably causing abject poverty and frightening violence along the way, we, the gullible public Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, are still waiting for those reports.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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