Minister declares broken parking machine product of "corrupt deal"

An out-of-service $650,000 parking ticket machine at Faleolo Airport was purchased in a "crooked deal," the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, has said.

And the Minister is using the example of the often out-of-service machine to put other Government agencies in his portfolio on notice to avoid "corrupt deals" that line the pockets of "middle men" by dealing with suppliers directly.

The airport parking machine has been out of order since this September. Visitors to the airport have had to  use the old system of paying $5 when they exit. 

But the parking system's controversial history extends much further than these recent problems.

Its $640,200 price tag drew the attention of the Auditor in 2013; an investigation found the project had myriad accounting irregularities.

And for some six years after the machine was commissioned, the machine was not in use. The Samoa Airport Authority had said the ongoing upgrade of the Faleolo terminal and associated carpark improvement works required the machine be removed and reinstalled in December 2018. 

Papali’i described the machine as an ongoing problem and one that stemmed from its purchase in “a crooked deal”.

“The ticketing machine was purchased under corrupt ways and a middle man was used which is their own friend and they received commissions,” the Minister said.

The machine first came to the Minister's notice in his former role as the Chairman for the Parliamentary Public Funds Committee, he said.

“At that time, I saw a lot of [unfavourable] deals being done by the former management and they should have not used the middle man in the first place. It will cost the Government more money," he said. 

“In the end, the middle man gave us second hand machines and we had to spend more money to fix it.”

The Minister, whose portfolios include the Samoa Airport Authority (S.A.A.), has instructed the Authority not to make use of a “middle man” to purchase any further infrastructure.

The Minister said he would require significant purchases by Ministries under his portfolio to be made directly from suppliers.

The S.A.A.’s General Manager, Silimanai Ueta Banse Jr. Solomona, said that the machine’s recent unavailability was due to an upgrade that taken longer than expected.

It was due to be ready for use again on Tuesday. An e-mail to Silimanai asking if the machine had been returned to use on schedule did not receive a reply by press time.

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