Trial of former and suspended L.T.A. Managers underway
The trial of former and suspended Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.) senior officers, Mata’afa Sepelini and Anoanoai Pepe Lafai started in the Supreme Court yesterday.
The two appeared before Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa with their lawyer, Fepulea’i Patrick Fepulea’i.
The prosecution was represented by senior prosecutor, Lucymaria Sio-Ofoia, of the Attorney General’s Office.
Mata’afa faces 24 charges including forgery and intent to obtain by deception.
Anoanoa’i faces six charges including one of theft.
The prosecution said they intend to call twenty witnesses, most of them staff in the Land Transport Authority’s Information Technology division.
The defendants will not call any witnesses.
L.T.A Chief Executive Officer Galumalemana Ta’atialeoitiiti Tutuvanu-Schwalger was the first witness to take the stand. She told the Court that only certain staff have full access to their database. These included her and her staff in the IT division.
Galumalemana testified that Mata’afa— as the Manager of the Savai’i office—had full access to the system, and was in charge of the office until his employment contract ended last month. Anoanoa’i is the Legal Division Manager and her contract expires in February next year, she added.
Explaining the process of renewing taxi registrations, Galumalemana said a vehicle is inspected by the Road Use Management division, before it is given the clearance to proceed to the Finance Section for taxi registration payment. A sticker is subsequently issued.
“This said registration is done twice a year for commercial vehicles,” she added.
During cross examination, Fepulea’i asked Galumalemana who had access to the Road Transport Administration System —which is the database containing all information on registered vehicles in Samoa—at the L.T.A.
“Is it true, that not many can access and you are the C.E.O you has full access and can make changes, such as the A.C.E.O in Savai’i—he has full access and can make necessary changes,” he asked, to which Galumalemana responded in the affirmative.
Fepulea’i then asked about the Legal Division within the L.T.A and whether it had access to the database.
Galumalemana responded: “Only for the change of ownership, but not the details of the vehicles—only IT people can make those changes.”
Fepulea’i then put it to Galumalemana that the L.T.A policy—which places a limit on certain vehicles that can be converted into taxis due to age—is a “fairly new policy”.
But the C.E.O. disputed the proposition.
“The policy to disregard certain registered vehicles for commercial transport has been in place for a long time,” she said, and informed the Court that vehicles over 15 years old cannot be converted to taxis.
According to the Police warrant, Mata’afa allegedly produced a “false document” by altering the year of make of a vehicle (with the registration number T454) from 2000 to 2005, knowing it to be false but with the intent to make it appear genuine. The offence allegedly occurred on February 19, 2018.
The trial continues.