E.P.C. says appointment followed proper process
The Chairman of the Electric Power Corporation (E.P.C.), Pepe Christian Fruean says the state-owned utility followed procurement laws when they engaged law firm owned by a member of its board, Wallwork Lamb, for legal advice on tax issues.
Wallwork Lamb is owned and operated by Su’a Helene Wallwork Lamb and her husband Travis Lamb. Su’a is on the E.P.C. board and oversees the E.P.C. policies committee.
“The auditor was aware and, in terms of governance, the E.P.C. procurement policies and the government procurement policies [...they] have not raised it as an area of significant concern; although it is necessary to provide notes in the account and the proper disclosure of such matters,” said Pepe in an interview with the Samoa Observer.
The firm's provision of legal advice to the E.P.C. is revealed in the Corporation's annual report in a summary of reporting disclosures made in accordance with "International Accounting Standard 24: Related Party Disclosures".
"The Corporation paid professional fees to the law firm of Wallwork Lamb Lawyers. Ms Su’a Hellene Wallwork, a Director of the Corporation is a partner of the law firm," the E.P.C. report said.
“During the year the Corporation paid approximately $49,053 ([exclusive of] V.A.G.S.T.) to Wallwork Lamb Lawyers for commercial legal services.
“The selection of the other partner of the law firm to provide legal services to the corporation was based on his expertise on tax and commercial law matters.
"[Su'a] declared her conflict of interest and was not involved in the selection process".
The Samoa Observer reached out to Su’a who said the decision to engage the firm was clearly taken in circumstances that neutralised any real or perceived conflict of interest.
“The E.P.C. sought the opinion of the Attorney General and I was comfortable with the process that was conducted and I was not part of it; obviously it’s a conflict,” said Su’a when contacted for a comment.
According to the E.P.C. Chairman, the Auditor reviewed the procurement of legal services and determined it was consistent with E.P.C.’s procurement policies and government procurement.
“And you’ll notice that it was noted in last year’s account and the 2018 report as well. This is not the first time the Auditors and the E.P.C. has disclosed that," Pepe said.
The Samoa Observer put it to the Chairman, whether the legal services were put out to tender and he confirmed that the Corporation had requested and received quotes for the service.
“The E.P.C. is one of the government’s biggest corporations and it actually requires us to seek competitive quotes and in fact in this instance, we did," The Chairman explained.
“And I suppose the reason for procuring this particular legal adviser it was very particular area of law, in fact taxation law, and the legal representative is a taxation expert."