Minister rejects agency criticism
The Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Lautafi Fio Purcell, has flatly rejected claims the Ministry is failing to monitor retailers selling expired goods, requesting that the allegation be removed from Parliamentary record.
Criticisms alleging the Ministry had failed in its duties were made in Parliament by the M.P. representing the Alataua West, Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tuuau.
In response, Lautafi he was saddened by the claims and asked the Speaker of the House to excise the comments from Friday's records of Parliamentary proceedings.
"I felt very sad because of the comments by the member [...] claiming that the [Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L.)] is not doing their job to monitor stores and such duties," he said.
"Well, it is not true."
Lautafi said that monitors from the agency had been sent out to retail outlets on a fortnightly basis.
"I have the records of these visitations they did on the last quarter of last year," he said.
"They examine the boxes and batches of goods, the quality and make sure nothing is expired and such [...and] to see if they have updated receipt books, and if they are issued receipts from their suppliers.
"There are also stores from the member's constituency that were checked by M.C.I.L., seven stores, I have the records here with their numbers, meaning the Ministry can check and confirm whether or not they came by to do their job."
As Lautafi was reiterating that M.C.I.L. is doing their job, M.P. Ali’imalemanu stood to apologise but said there were more elements to her point than those covered in the Minister's response.
"Another reason why I know this is because it's not just one Ministry that is involved," she said.
"Forgive me for what I had said but what I have seen is that [M.C.I.L.] is now more on executing projects and such while leaving their normal duties.
"My intention was to remind, to ensure our monitoring to be done effectively because we know there are goods that are still sold despite being expired in some shops."
Lautafi said such claims are best made with proof, but thanked the member for her reminder to keep track of stores selling expired goods.
"I will go back again to advise and command the Ministry to look for these stores, but it would have been better if you told us a store that is doing this and then I will ask them directly if they had not visited the store before and why they did not pick that up," he said.
"And if the intention behind the thought was true then it is accepted with gratitude."
The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, joined the debate by saying that consumers do not report stores who are in breach of regulations or testify against them when matters come before the court.
"We need the support from the members of the public," he said.
"Once they discover such things, they report it into the office right away, because with the 100 of shops, M.C.I.L. cannot check every single day.
"But the people who should know about these are those shopping in these stores every single day. So when they see something wrong, they need to help by reporting these stores.
"Even when the matter is in court, it needs witnesses, and when we ask them to be a witness, they refuse."
Minister Lautafi said that pursuing store owners required more than mere reporting of complaints.
"These are not just complaints, but rather comments for the improvement of service by the Government, not just M.C.I.L.," he said.