Follow up necessary for debt collection, says Minister

The Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, says follow-up is essential if outstanding debts such as water bills are to be paid. 

He said this in relation to the $2.6million outstanding water bills, which was highlighted in Parliamentary Committee’s Report for Samoa Water Authority for the financial years 2016-2017. 

Papali’i, who is also responsible for the SWA, said the negligence falls on the follow up process of collecting outstanding water bills. 

“Ministries and companies (bills) need to be followed up,” he said during a recent interview. 

“The negligence falls on the management that is responsible for collection of debt, and should remember that debts need to be followed up. If the authority is not attentive to these then that happens.”

The nature of some employers is they only do the work they are required to do, he added, but have no motivation to do anything more than that. 

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“That is the nature of other workers, they just do what they are supposed to do at work, but anything more in terms of collecting debts they have no drive to do it.”

According to the Minister, the water bill debts can still be recovered, after the Parliamentary Committee rejected the proposal by the SWA to write off the debts. 

While he acknowledged that some outstanding debts belong to individuals who have passed on, they can be recovered if water is disconnected and individuals pay to get it reinstated it and arrangements are made for part-payment. 

He said the whole thinking behind the authority’s request to write off the debt is to clear old accounts, as it can push up the amount of uncollected debts where some cannot be recovered.   

The Parliamentary Committee report stated that the reason why they rejected the write-off plan 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 also asked that the Government direct the Authority to review its current policies in relation to the writing-off of old debts and consider putting in place extensions to time and revocation of the current mandate of 12 months. 

“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 Revenue.” 

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