Govt. liabilities from lawsuits "confidential"

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Finance, Leasiosiofa’asisina Oscar Malielegaoi, says details regarding liabilities against the Government as a result of lawsuits are “governed by strict rules of confidentiality.”

The Samoa Observer understands the liabilities from multiple lawsuits and payouts the Government makes from time to time runs into “millions of tala.”

In Parliament last year, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele expressed concerns about $2.1 million tala the Electric Power Corporation (E.P.C.) had to pay to a family following an incident where an electricity pole fell onto a car, killing a man.

But that is just one case.

So the Samoa Observer had asked the Ministry of Finance for a total amount that the Government has paid out during the past couple of years.

In a written response, Leasiosiofa’asisina assured they are working to address the issue. 

But he wouldn’t provide the total amount or the details.

“For your information legal matters to which public funds are expended range from Court ordered costs resulting to civil claims, criminal proceedings, settlements costs, and costs for provision of legal aid in the interests of justice,” he said.

“Given that such matters are governed by strict rules of confidentiality, we cannot provide you with details other than the information, which are already available to the public in published decisions of the Court.”

In 2015, Suitupe Misa filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Ministry of Police in relation to an incident where he was arrested at gunpoint by armed police officers. Last month the case was settled in the middle of its hearing. The Attorney General’s office confirmed the settlement however refused to divulge the amount of the payout.

Another Police matter was settled in 2017, where a $100,000 was paid to the family of the three-year-old boy who was detained in a Police cell with his father.

Last March, E.P.C. paid $20,000 to the family of a boy who was electrocuted by live wires on the main road.

The matter has been settled but on top of the $20,000 the Corporation paid at the start, the Chief Executive Officer, Tologata Tile Tuimaleali’ifano, wouldn’t say what the final settlement was.

According to the C.E.O. of Finance, some of the amounts are disclosed in public expenditure and liabilities reports tabled in Parliament.

“Please refer also to a full account of public expenditure and liabilities (and transactions involving public monies) that are published in relevant reports presented to Parliament, as well as other information on our Ministry’s website or the websites of the various Government authorities,” said Leasiosio.

He also assured there are processes in place to control such spending.

“In light of these issues you have alluded to, we confirm that there are existing controls and processes in place which assist in implementation and delivery of relevant outputs under each department for which the relevant appropriation is made,” he said.

“In addition, adequate guidelines exist for the use of public money and public property as well as requirements prescribed by law which assist further in supervision of finances, assets and liabilities of the State, and ensuring compliance by all departments of their responsibilities.

“Trust the above clarifies.”

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