Government and déjà vu
If you didn’t already have this feeling of déjà vu before you started to read our sidebar front page story, we can pretty much guarantee you will have it by the time you get to the end of it.
Déjà vu, is that feeling of ‘having already experienced the present situation’ and the news item referred to, is yet another twist on a familiar story of spending by government appointees, elected representatives and departments.
We can’t say that we blame you.
You’ve heard so many versions of this tale before.
A Minister’s revamped office, car, land, Aleipata Wharf, Samoa Land Corporation, are a list of words that will trigger memories of situations we would much rather forget.
They’re like those old, familiar stories where you already know what the ending will be although you still keep hoping that there will be a twist and you may be pleasantly surprised.
This story at Vaitele is said to have begun with “good intentions”.How many disastrous situations can be attributed to such beginnings?
Unfortunately, as many experienced business people will testify, “good intentions” is never enough.
From then on, it goes downhill quite rapidly.
Sadly the project should also have begun with due diligence before embarking on this, or any project, big or small, and not just signed off by a consultancy firm and the World Bank.
It should have also been about being clear about what your core business is, sticking to that and doing that well rather than venturing into what appears to be more exciting and high-profile projects.
It should have been about understanding basic business practice as it pertains to the local situation as well in the regional and world setting.
It should have been about recognizing the limitations of the people involved in such a venture and stopping it before it even started.
It should have definitely been about the need to be realistic about the risks of which there were clearly many.
But overall, it should have been about the fact that the money being used to fund the project, came from the people of Samoa, the taxpayers - the same people who are exhorted to live within their means.
Why is it that many government people are cautious and realistic when it is their own personal money but then turn into a ‘don’t care, billionaire’ when it comes to other people’s money?
Is it because these people can be reasonably sure that when it all turns to custard, there will be no accountability as there hasn’t been for so many examples of corruption and mismanagement in government for years?
Somewhere along the way, some politicians and government appointees have forgotten that it is not just about building some kind of monument to yourself and your family, it is about really serving the people who voted you in or had faith tom appoint you.
And to leave your family, community and country a better place than it was before you arrived.
So will there be a happy ending to this familiar story?
The words spoken by the present Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti do give us hope.
He talks about diligence, decision making and questions whether organizations like N.P.F. should be “in the business of operating or making investments and things that it doesn’t have the skills and the expertise to manage“.
He also alludes to the dangers of not being sure there are no risks and the need to be sure that there will be profits for the contributors – we, the taxpayers.
It almost sounds as though there is genuine concern which we hope will translate into positive action to make the necessary changes.
We’ll wait and see.