The Samoa Tourism Authority (S.T.A.) has advised hoteliers of the importance of fostering healthy relationships with village councils for their business to succeed.
Abuse exposed by the Auditor General, Parliament and those laws
The Controller and Auditor General, Fuimaono Afele Taimalelagi, and the Audit Office have been making some eye-opening discoveries lately that demand attention and scrutiny.The discoveries include what they have repeatedly described as “inappropriate expenses”, which raises questions about spending habits in a number of Government bodies.Some of these habits are borderline abuse of power and misuse of public resources, which should concern Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his Government of big laui’as a great deal.Uncovered during their interim audit, these findings are contained in the Report of the Controller and Auditor General to the Legislative Assembly, which has been tabled in Parliament.They certainly make for some interesting reading. Take for instance the story titled “Auditor uncovers inappropriate expenses at Public Trust Office” published last week.According to the Audit Office, some of these “inappropriate expenses” include an end-of-year function that cost $6,000 hampers for the Minister and members of the Board of Directors as well as a gift of $2,000 for the Public Trustee while he was on sick leave.The Auditor General also found other matters including the fact the Public Trustee had “no signed employment contract.” He also questioned the decision to pay the Public Trustee’s leave in cash, when “this was not in compliance with government’s policies for contractual staff.” He added that the payment “without a legal binding document is illegal.” “The Public Trustee leave records indicates that he has taken 49 days as special leave, yet only 10 days were properly approved by Cabinet,” the Audit found. “The other 39 days special leave were utilized without approval from Cabinet, while the Public Trustee received his normal salary and with no signed employment contract in place.”Now before we all go condemning the Public Trust Office here, it needs to be implicitly stated that what was uncovered is symptomatic of what is happening across the board in the public service.In other words, the bad habits at the Public Trust office are quite common elsewhere, the Auditor found.Consider the Samoa Ports Authority (S.P.A.) as another example. According to the report in question, the Auditor General found that the Authority spent $100,000 on four officials to take a research trip to Miami, U.S.A.Here, read it for yourself: "The overspending was from official trips to Miami by the Chairman, General Manager, Manager Commercial & Marketing and the Principal Marketing Officer to promote Samoa as an attractive destination to the cruise liners conference held there.”How does one justify such reckless spending? Would these people have spent such money so aimlessly as if it was theirs? The answer is no. And why was there a need for all senior officials to travel?But then again, this is typical of what has been happening over the years in Government. It would be very interesting to see how much all the trips involving countless Government officials throughout the year cost?We can haphazardly guess that the final figure would probably be in the millions, money that comes from the submissive taxpayers, including the poorest in this country.Keep in mind that we’ve only looked at the bad habits in two public offices. In yesterday’s newspaper, the Land Transport Authority was singled out for taxpayers paying their gym membership fees among other perks.We can go on but we’ll stop here.The question is, what is being done about these instances of wrongdoing and abuse highlighted by the Controller and Auditor General?What is the point of the Audit Office uncovering them only for these issues to remain in Parliamentary reports that gather dust at Mulinu’u and will eventually be forgotten?Besides, what good is it to anyone that a number of these instances happened four or five years ago? Can the Government go back to find these people so they can recover these monies?We acknowledge with gratitude the Controller and Auditor General and his office for highlighting these matters, which clearly exposes the rampant abuse of public monies and resources in the public service.But the ball is now in Parliament’s court to do something about them.What will they do now? Remember how they ignored the report from Office of Parliament Committee (O.P.C.) a few years ago? Are they going to do the same thing? In fact, does the O.P.C. still exist?Let’s be realistic here, it’s an utter waste of time and money when these matters are only reported to Parliament – for the sake of going through the motions. We’ve seen this time and time again with this Government.There needs to be definitive actions taken to ensure the abuse of power and wastage of public resources – identified by the Controller and Auditor General –are not repeated.Otherwise, what is the point of having a Controller and Auditor General? What is the point of having laws? And what is the point of having a Parliament?What do you think? Don’t be shy to share your thoughts with us.Have a wonderful Thursday Samoa, God bless!Read Full Story
Newborns being abandoned: How do we stop it?
Poutoa Polutele , 41, TufuleleThe solution is within families. The parents should have a connection with their children and they should also teach their child what to do. For the parents, if the girl gets pregnant they should not beat the girl. They should understand and talk with her, because the girl thinks that her parents might beat her and then she makes the wrong decision. It goes back to good relations.Siloi Reopoamo, 53, Saleia Savai’iI think it's very important that parents communicate with their children everyday. One of the biggest issues today is cellphones because too many children spend time on it. For my family I talk to my kids every time and day, ever since my kids were young. That's my solution.Lina Leiataua, 64, Fa’atoiaI think the whole country should be involved in a programme to encourage girls to speak out when these things happen. We know we cannot stop so we have to be accomodating when it happens. There are also a lot of parents who cannot have children and I think there should be a programme where these children could be adopted. It's just an idea.Api Tuilo’a, 34, Safotu Savai’iOur country needs to repent and ask God for help. I cannot see any other solution unless God is involved. If girls and boys fear God, they wouldn't do what God wouldn't want them to do - and that includes abandoning babies born outside of marriage. We need to be a prayerful nation. Vaisuigi Malio, 52, Vavaai LotofagaThe issue is not new to Samoa. My solution involves families, the relationship between parents and daughter. The kids also need to understand where the parents stand on issues and why they don't want them to get pregnant. But if they do get pregnant, then the parents need to be patient and still work with their children. That's how we solve this.Le’ale’a Mataia, 39, FalefaGirls who don't have a relationship with their parents would do this. I think that's the first part of the problem. I also think mothers need to read their daughters body language and find out what is going on. Surely there must be signs so they should not be passive. I think we need to tackle this issue as a community rather than individuals.Read Full Story
China and developments at Mulifanua
Kevin Hart’s letter of 03 September complained about the Chinese being a likely buyer of Government’s shareholding in the Sheraton Samoa Resort at Mulifanua. Which raises the question; what is wrong with Chinese investors getting involved in tourism development in Samoa anyway especially when there isn’t much interest from elsewhere? Virtually every other country in the Pacific and the world including the US and Australia, China’s foremost critics have been enjoying the benefits of Chinese trade, investment, and tourism. So why not Samoa?Whether people like it or not, China will be a major player in the region, and it will only get worse with time for those who wish it otherwise. And in any case, one can’t do business with China as China’s critics do, and then seek to deny the Pacific Islands the same privilege by engaging in fearmongering about China’s intentions. Samoa’s deputy prime minister called this bahaviour recently, patronizing and offensive. It is also dishonest. One would have thought that with colonialism still fresh in people’s minds, China’s detractors might have tried some more subtle way to make their case about China being a threat to Island nations. After all, these are nations that have only recently won back their own sovereignty from countries that are accusing China, a victim of colonialism itself, of malevolent intent in the Pacific. Samoa’s prime minister made the point at the Pacific Island Forum that China is not an enemy of Samoa, which adheres to a “friend to all and enemy to none” approach to old and new comers alike to the region. The Pacific islands have legitimate economic needs and environmental interests that the former colonial powers in the Pacific have been unable to meet or in some cases totally ignored. Over the years, the Pacific Island nations have even been blamed for supposedly lagging in economic growth behind other parts of the world that receive similar levels of aid. But more recent work on the subject has confirmed what the Pacific Islands have known all along. And that is when you are small, highly fragmented and horribly isolated, your costs of attempting any form of economic activity are always going to be high no matter what you do. China’s willingness and ability to help bridge this aid gap is welcomed therefore. It also helps that China has a different approach in its relations with the tiny and insignificant Pacific Island states and peoples. And it happens it’s an approach that the Pacific peoples themselves understand all too well and appreciate. Its an approach that recognizes the inherent dignity of peoples irrespective of colour, money and level of development. The result is that in spite of the fear mongering about China’s supposedly hidden agenda even in the face of evidence to the contrary, the Pacific Islands have seen no reason to believe this crude and offensive propaganda. There appears to have been a notable increase lately in the number of visits by navy vessels and personnel from the US and Australia doing the usual public relations soft sell with various groups including school children. The visit on board these war machines and the helicopter rides for the children will have been the thrill of a lifetime for many. One suspects that we will be seeing more of these as the West sets out to contain the rise of Chinese influence in the region. The visits bring back to mind the colonial days of gun boat diplomacy in the Pacific when control of native populations was exercised mainly through the firepower of visiting warships when turned on native communities that failed to toe the line Samoa’s prime minister is reported to have said recently in relation to the stepped-up competition that Samoa’s main interest and focus of diplomacy is to raise standards of living and provide for its people’s needs. In the circumstances, public relations and making friends with young people will only go so far in winning influence especially in the face of China’s hard cash. Airy catch phrases such as Step Up, (Australia), Pacific Uplift, (UK), something about Family? (US), can easily backfire. A meeting between Chinese leaders and Pacific Island leaders being hosted by Samoa in October this year should be quite an event especially at this time. It will most likely see among other things the unveiling of some new aid and trade initiative by China. And as for Chinese interests possibly helping to bring more air services to Samoa, that too would be a welcome relief from the monopolistic practices of Air New Zealand, Virgin Airways and Fiji Airways, the three carriers that operate services in Samoa today. After being badly burnt in yet another one-sided partnership with an Australian carrier, the Samoan government did the right thing for Samoa in starting up Samoa Airways in spite of the risks and poor timing. When Polynesian Airlines started international services to New Zealand in the late 1970s, it did so mainly on the strength of Samoa’s own ethnic traffic between the two countries. The airline did well even then, until gross mismanagement grounded it with heavy losses. In spite of its inauspicious beginnings, Samoa Airways if properly managed and run, (by professionals preferably), has every chance of being the catalyst for Samoa to have the airline services it so badly needs. But it is helpful as government embarks on this to be reminded that we have been down this very road before. The lessons of history are there and must be learnt and heeded, if their repetition is to be avoided. Incidentally, as for a possible flooding of the To-Sua with tourists from China if direct charter flights were to start between China and Samoa, I have a suggestion. Make the climb down to the water even more challenging than it is now. That should encourage only the young and the brave to take the plunge. Afamasaga F ToleafoaLetavaRead Full Story