Write off of old bills will go through Minister
A new crackdown on the Government's delinquent creditors has been announced by the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang.
He says any forgiveness of debts owed to Ministries will require his personal endorsement.
“This is the only way we can monitor the writing off of old debts," he said.
"It shouldn't be done when in fact those people that owe the government can afford to pay their bills.
“I will not tolerate being bypassed by the management. Initially the board that oversees the Authorities or Corporations can take their request directly to Cabinet and Parliament. I have put a stop to that,” said Minister Papali’i.
Papalii’s portfolio includes the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure; Samoa Water Authority; Electric Power Corporation; Samoa Ports Authority; Samoa Airports Authority; Samoa Shipping Corporation; Samoa Land Transport Authority; Samoa Shipping Services and Pacific Forum Line.
In an interview with the Minister, he was “unhappy” that certain government officials including Board members were included in the write off of old debts.
“It is not right for Board members to be included in the write offs, no matter how old those bills are," he said.
“In going forward I want to see all these write offs sent to me, even though the Board has pre-approved it, but I want to see it as well and make my judgement and call on it."
Last year the Parliamentary Infrastructure Sector Committee rejected a proposal by the Samoa Water Authority’s plan (at the time) to write-off $2.6 million in outstanding water bills.
The position of the Committee was highlighted in a report that it compiled based on the Annual Report of the Samoa Water Authority for the financial years 2016-2017.
Papali’i told the Samoa Observer this week the recommendation by the infrastructure committee came too late for the S.W.A.
“And that is one of the reasons why we need to keep these annual reports updated. I know for a fact by the time the said report reached Parliament the account was already audited and despite the rejection, the write off was already done.
“That is why the write off is reflected in the annual report for F.Y. 2017-2018.”
According to the S.W.A. financial statements for F.Y. 2017-2018 it indicated the write offs of debts for F.Y. 2017 of $2.60 million and $82,631 for F.Y. 2018.
In October last year the Samoa Observer reported a $2.60 million water bill, which the Samoa Water Authority (S.W.A.) had requested to be written off. These include debts incurred by Government Ministries, senior Government officials, schools, churches and businesses.
Minister Papali’i said the relevant Ministries have been informed that all the correspondence of write off of old debts will be routed through his office for scrutiny before it goes to Parliament.