Fairness, $2.6 million of unpaid water bills and the sacking of coach Fuimaono

Let’s talk about fairness. The principle implies that everyone is treated equally and that all members of the community, regardless of who they are, get the same treatment. 

Imagine the day that happens on the planet, wouldn’t it be a wonderful world to live in? Unfortunately, that is not the case and probably never will be, not in Samoa or anywhere else for that matter. This is to say that we live in an unfair world where inequality has become the norm. 

On these shores, one such case was brought to the fore this week with a story titled “Committee rejects $2.6 million write-off plan.”

The story in question highlighted the Samoa Water Authority’s (S.W.A.) plan to write-off $2.6 million in outstanding water bills by a number of people – including some senior Government officials and people with key roles within the Authority.

The request to Parliament was apparently made in the Annual Report of the Samoa Water Authority for the financial year 2016-2017, which had been reviewed by Parliamentary Infrastructure Sector Committee. Thankfully, the Parliamentary Committee knocked back the request, recommending that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s Government should instead direct the Authority to enforce the collection of the debt.

“The Committee conveyed that they did not agree with the (Samoa Water Authority) Board’s decision to write-off of $2.6 million during the financial year under review,” the Parliamentary Committee said.

“This is due to it not only being a hefty amount, but also most businesses and individuals are still in the country. It is in the opinion of the Committee, that this be of priority so as to ensure that it will not affect the cash flow for the Authority later on.”

The Committee though did not stop there. It also asked that the Government to review its current policies in relation to the writing-off of old debts.

“The Committee stated that the standard timeframe of 12 months is a loophole which can be exploited and result in the loss of revenue for the Ministry of Revenue.”

The Parliamentary Committee is to be applauded, we couldn’t agree more with their reasoning. If these people who owe the debt have their outstanding water bills pardoned, what about the rest of members of the public who are paying? How do you think they would feel? 

It goes without saying that while there might be a policy to allow the writing off of old debts to happen, people must be made accountable for their actions. If they owe water bills, let them pay and if that means the Government needs to go after them, so be it.

On the other hand, if they are going to pardon others, they should do the same thing to everyone. That’s what the principle of fairness is all about. It’s about being consistent with the decision-making so that no one feels excluded and mistreated.

Speaking of which, another classic case of having different strokes for different folks appeared on the front page of yesterday’s Weekend Observer. This time, former Manu Samoa Coach, Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua, whose services as coach were unexpectedly terminated in August this year, is crying foul.

Today, he has not only threatened to sue the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.), he is also demanding a public apology from them. 

Fuimaono claims the termination of his contract was unfair and without valid grounds. 

Listen to him: “According to my terms of contract of employment signed on 17th May 2018 [copy attached], I have not breached any grounds to warrant immediate termination. Nor have I breached any other term of my contract relating to performance or otherwise.”

“I have had not been given any warnings about my performance or conduct as a high performance head couch. To my knowledge, I have fulfilled and met my key performance indicators as outlined.”

“You are not entitled to terminate my contract unless upon the grounds of good cause. Your letter of termination does not contain any grounds, nor have you otherwise informed me or any concerns about or related to my role and work.”

Fuimaono also argued that his sacking was procedurally unfair. 

“Your termination does not set out the procedure that you followed to terminate my contract. All you say is that I was ‘informed’ of my fate, by my Supervisor.” 

“As you well know, I was not advised of the reason or termination nor was I given a chance to respond to the Board’s deliberation of the decision to terminate my contract. These failures are a breach of my right to natural justice. Moreso, given the unilateral termination of my contract without cause.”

Fuimaono has since acquired the services of Auckland-based lawyer, Simativa Perese, to represent him. Which means this matter is far from resolved.

Whatever happens, we know the termination of Fuimaono’s contract was poorly handled. The question remains, would they have done this if it were someone else, perhaps a foreigner? 

Maybe they took Fuimaono’s availability for granted. Which is bad, isn’t it?

Fuimaono is not just a coach. He is a well-respected matai of this country who over the years has served Samoa well. The least he deserves is an apology.

What do you think?

Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

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