“At the end of day, S.L.C. paid $490,000 for an expensive broken down elevator”

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 17 October 2017, 12:00AM

As Members of Parliament, whether they belong to the H.R.P.P. or the Opposition Party, we know they have a sacred responsibility to do what is right in the eyes of the people they serve.

Not to mention God who sees everything. That means they must perform their tasks without fear, favour, corruption, collusion or abuse. In other words, they should desist from being greedy and insist on doing everything possible to help advance the lot of members of the public who placed them there in the first place.

This is especially critical for a government that sings about transparency, accountability and good governance at every opportunity it gets.

Now what about blatant acts of wrongdoing? Do they have a responsibility to address them? Do they have a duty to see that public officials who abuse their positions for wealth and personal gains at the expense of poor taxpayers are held accountable for the sake of truth and justice? 

We don’t know about you but we believe they do. Did they not take an oath in the first place to do what is right and decent? Did they not swear by the Almighty to always insist on honesty? 

The fact is blatant acts of wrongdoing from the past, which have been identified and proven by one government investigation after another, continue to stare at us in the face with the idea that something needs to be done about them. Indeed, there is reason to believe that Parliament – and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s government– have failed to do this.

In saying that, we are thinking back to the letter from the former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, to Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, a few years ago.

The letter was part of a file of documents in which “documentary evidences” were presented to Prime Minister Tuilaepa to prove that public servants had indeed colluded to defraud public funds at the Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C.).

Dated 24 January 2015, the letter followed Parliament’s decision to pass the long-awaited government response to the report by the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C.). 

To refresh our memories, the O.P.C. report in question contained a recommendation to take legal action against the public servants involved. In its response, however, Prime Minister Tuilaepa acknowledged the issues raised but assured that remedial actions have been taken by the government to improve its performance.

With that, nothing further was said about the recommendation to take legal action. Now this upset Papali’i at the time. He and a few others in Parliament had been very vocal against the idea of “corrupt practises” being allowed to fester within the government, at the expense of people who are suffering in silence.

So instead of taking Tuilaepa’s word for it, Papali’i wrote back to the Prime Minister. He pleaded that he takes another look at the documents the O.P.C. had provided.

Before we go on, why are we talking about this today, you might ask?

Well on page 3 of the newspaper you are reading today is the direct result of one of the issues raised by Papali’i at the time. It is a multi-million-tala building that is falling apart which will require more taxpayers money to fix it.

Now back at the time, Papali’i raised the issue of collusion to defraud public funds. 

“An act to defraud public funds was committed by the Minister, C.E.O. and the contractor whereby the contractor requested the release of the 10% Retention Fund using a “Fake” Insurance Policy as guarantee and approved by the Minister and C.E.O. knowing very well that the Insurance was fake as there were no premiums paid and reconfirmed by the insurance company that the said Policy was not valid for any claim,” the letter reads.

Then there were the variations to the S.L.C. headquarters at Tuana’imato.

“The Variations amounting to $2,419,977.12 required to complete S.L.C’s new headquarters at a cost of $5,219,977.12 more than doubled the original cost of $2,800,000.00 approved by Cabinet and the said variations were never referred to Cabinet for approval as per usual government policy,” the letter continues.

“The committee believed that the Variations were too excessive and the completed work was found very unsatisfactory given that the up-graded elevator was never in operation despite been paid an additional cost of $310,000.00 on top of the original approved cost of $180,000.00. At the end of day, S.L.C. paid $490,000.00 for an expensive broken down elevator.”

There is a lot more that was contained in the letter but we will stop here for now. Now, some of you might say that these allegations are old and they should be left in the past. 

We disagree. Why? The consequences of these failed projects continue to surface despite the attempts to tuck them far, far away from members of the public. The irony is that the expenses and more costs will be shouldered by the silent submissive taxpayers while the officials responsible for this madness continue to enjoy their luxurious lifestyles. 

Who knows what they are talking about with Prime Minister Tuilaepa being sick in hospital? 

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about millions by the way. Let us remind you again that out there in the Courts at Mulinu’u, there are mothers, fathers, loved ones being jailed for stealing as little as $50. 

What about these millions? Who should be held accountable for them? 

Tell us what you think!

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 17 October 2017, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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