War of words rages on as frangipanis* are being chucked around the House

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

The war of words fought in Parliament last week between two government politicians, is clearly the sort of drivel we’d thought this country’s politicians would have learned a long time ago to ignore, and if it’s humanly feasible with just a simple giggle and a frown.

And yet this time, for one reason or another, the quarrel had skipped out of control and along the way, it ended up on the front page of the Sunday Samoan, under the headline: “Think about when you were a Cabinet Minister”. 

Incidentally, that advice was directed at the former Cabinet Minister, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, by the Minister of Works, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, who told Faumuina: “My humble advice to you is … you should ask yourself: How did I perform my duties when I was a Cabinet Minister?”

The question clearly implied that Faumuina had not done what had been expected of him, while he was holding the office of Cabinet Minister, which was when he interjected, saying: The government has accumulated close to $300 million in unused funds due to delays and the absence of a Project Management Unit (P.M.U.).

He also told Parliament that: Two such projects include the Vaisigano Project and the West Coast Road expansion, which he said have been delayed for five years.

Faumuina went on to say: “My concern - and I think this is a concern shared by Cabinet Ministers - is that if the projects are delayed, they become even more expensive.

“Now the Prime Minister this morning has spoken and has asked to speed things up. 

“That’s why it’s important that the Minister of Finance sets up a central Project Management Unit to perform the overall supervision of individual projects.”

Now that is what Faumuina Tiatia Liuga told Parliament anyway.

The question then is: Isn’t this the man who is responsible for all those government projects scattered around the place, that cost scores of millions of Tala to set up, and yet all they’re doing today is stand there looking unused and empty, as if they are mere skeletons as they’re gaping forlornly up at the heavens? 

Still, it appears that Faumuina is a man revered; perhaps he believes he’s been sent from another world to show the Samoan government how to mend its ways and rid it of austere corruption, if nothing else.

His advice to Parliament in last week’s session, is to use the “millions” of Tala that have already been provided by funders for those projects, that have already been approved.

He said: “For five years the money brought in for this road hasn’t been used. It’s been five years since we’ve had the money to do the Vaisigano Road. 

“The projects are becoming more expensive because of the delays. That’s my concern. This is not a criticism but an advice.”

In response, Minister of Works, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang Papali’i, disagreed.

Arguing that the delay was beyond their control, he told Parliament: “There is a process and there are delays we can’t do anything about because of the conditions of funding. 

“The first thing is the design,” he said. 

“Often the designs come from overseas companies who are consulting on a certain project. So when the design arrives and the government sees that variations are needed, then we send it back for this to be done. That takes time.”

Now that’s rubbish, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga Faumuina, responded. 

Unconvinced, he said: “I followed up with the Vice President of the World Bank if the money had been allocated for the road projects in 2013.

“He told me that they had already asked us to prepare the terms of reference for the person to design the project. That was the first delay. 

“When I asked M.W.T.I, L.T.A., they said that’s not their job, that is the job of the P.M.U. And when I asked them where the P.M.U. was, they said they didn’t know.

“Now what kind of thing is that? This is where the delay is. It wasn’t delayed because of the design; it was delayed because there were no terms of reference for someone to design these projects.”

Now unable to hold his growing anger down, Papali’i snapped.

He said: “Now let me talk about the delay. This project has been delayed for five years but also I note, that he (Faumuina) was sitting here (as a Cabinet Minister) when the job was delayed. 

“Why didn’t he follow it up then since he said he spoke with the President of the World Bank? That’s the time it should have been addressed. He is talking about providing a solution, I don’t know if your solution is applicable anymore.”

Right away Faumuina interjected.

He said: “Honourable Speaker, he is referring to the time when the funding was brought in. That was my job to bring in the funds then. If I was still there now, these projects would all be completed.”

But Papali’i saw the humour. 

“Well, I’m sorry you are no longer sitting here,” he retorted, “so just let us continue our work then.”

The Minister insisted that the delay is beyond their control and that there were conditions that must be satisfied before funds were released. 

He said the process would take time.

“But in case members of the public are misled that there are millions of monies sitting there unused, it needs to be stated that these monies are highlighted in our budget every year. 

“They have been committed to projects and when the government moves on them, these funds will then be used.”

Now glancing across to Faumuina, Papali’i referred to a Samoan saying where people who accuse others are compared to someone picking frangipanis (pua) from a tree and then chucking them across to someone else recklessly.

“My humble advice to you, don’t just pick these frangipanis and chuck them this way. You should ask yourself. How did you perform your duties when you were a Minister?”

An irritated Faumuina returned to the floor.

He said: “All the frangipanis should be cast to your side, that’s where they belong. Even if you drown in them.”

Papali’i fired back: “When you throw the frangipani this way, save some for yourself.” 

And so, the fracas that’s been keeping Samoa’s Parliament alive and exciting, continued. 

By the way, what are the acronyms for M.W.T.I, L.T.A., and P.M.U.? 

What do they stand for?

It would be good to know. 

After all, we’re being forced here to listen as our Members of Parliament are joking as they’re chucking frangipani at each other, as if that is the normal thing to do whenever our Parliament meets.

And lastly, perhaps Famuina’s claim that the government has accumulated close to $300 million in unused funds due to delays and the absence of a Project Management Unit (P.M.U.), is something that the Minister of Works, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang Papali’i, should think seriously about.

Just a thought. 

 

frangipani*

A fragrant smelling flower young women wear in the ear when they’re dancing. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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