Minister denies role in banners contract

The Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, has denied his involvement in the decision which led to a company with connections to him, Starsignz Production, getting the contract to print and install sticker banners for the $5 million Samoa Cable Depot at Matatutu.

The Depot constructed by the Samoa Submarine Cable Company (S.S.C.C) and T.E. SubCom was opened by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi on Tuesday. 

Responding to questions from the Weekend Observer, Afamasaga, who is also the Minister of S.S.C.C. said: 

“I have no understanding of work implementation. And I don't oversee these things. 

“We only are involved in the beginning as government then we go open projects after they are done.  

"Perhaps get in touch with Starsignz of how they ended up doing the job.”

The Managing Director of Starsignz and Afamasaga’s wife, Asenati Tupa’i, explained that they were asked by TE Subcom, through their local contractor, Moli Seanoa, for quotes on the sticker banners. 

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“Earlier on in the year we were asked to provide quotes for the above job,” Mrs. Tupa’i said.

“And after several months of waiting for a response from, we thought we had lost the job to another contractor.

“It was only a few days before the opening (Tuesday 02nd of October I remember), when we were asked to come in and start the work. It was a time frame that was very difficult to meet but having worked on bigger projects and in similar circumstances previously, we managed to complete it in the nick of time.” 

Mrs. Tupa’i said Starsignz followed through with the bidding process. “I believe we followed through the usual process of bidding for this particular job as per all our projects, the details on how and why the work was awarded to Starsignz is perhaps something the TE Subcom local contractor, Ms. Moli Seanoa can explain further and in more detail.” In an email to the Weekend Observer, Ms. Seanoa said the signage at the depot was her idea, not that of S.S.S.C.  She explained that she is sub-contracted by S.S.S.C. to run their Communications and Events and she had asked TE Subcom if they were interested in banners.

“I approached TE Subcom if they wanted signage inside the depot as well as outside,” she said. 

“This was dealt with directly with TE Subcom with no involvement whatsoever from Samoa Cable Company. The costs and everything else went to them, approved and paid by them.”

Ms. Seanoa added that she approached two other local sign companies, Signz Studio and TiSaan. Contacted for a comment yesterday, Signz Studio declined while the Manager for TiSaan was not immediately available.

As of press time last night, it could not be ascertained how much the banners cost. 

But quotes from industry members in Samoa indicate that the standard price could cost as much as $400 per square meter for a sticker banner. 

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