Government to release Pacific Games equipment, assets

After delays of several months, Cabinet approved for the Ministry of Finance (M.O.F.) to begin distributing and selling assets donated to Samoa for the Pacific Games hosted in July 2019.

The Cabinet approval, made at the end of January, gives the Ministry a green light to make a plan under which sports associations, State Owned Enterprises and Ministries would receive assets to later be sold by Government auction.

There is no deadline for the plan, nor for the removal of the assets. Asked when the work would be done, M.O.F. Chief Executive Officer Leasiosiofa'asisina Oscar Malielegaoi said “soon.”

A sub-committee will be established, made up of the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, and the Samoa Sports Facilities Authority (S.S.F.A.), which will plan the distribution of sports equipment to schools and sport associations.

“We don’t want anything in storage, that defeats the whole purpose of why this equipment was brought in; to develop sports,” Leasiosio said.

The next priority is to distribute assets like computers, coolers and the like to Government Ministries to “reduce the pressure on the budget,” and some Ministries have already reported a need for several resources that could come from the Pacific Games donation.

“Whatever is left, we will sell,” he said. 

There is no targeted amount of money the Government hopes to make from the sale, he said; everything will be valued by experts before the public auction. 

Several lots of equipment were loaned to the Ministry of Health to carry out their mass vaccination campaign during the measles epidemic last year, including computers, coolers used for vaccines, and vans. Some were returned to the Ministry in less than pristine condition, Leasiosio admitted, but nothing has gone missing.

Asked why the donated sports equipment was not slated for distribution to sporting associations or schools sooner, Leasiosio said the Ministry was too busy putting on the event itself to consider it.

“The equipment arrived just before the Games, and so we did not have time,” he said. 

“The intention was to host a successful Games; that was the priority, nothing else. 

“Even my team, and the Audit Office, who would usually do that stock take, we were all out in the field ensuring we hosted a successful Games.”

But not all Games donations have been sitting in storage since the event ended in July. 

One example is the Samoa Weightlifting Federation, which almost immediately claimed brand new mats, weights and other resources donated from China and used them to outfit a High Performance Elite Training Centre in Gym 3 in Tuanaimato which opened in October. 

Leasiosio said the Federation’s track record and results make them one of Samoa’s most successful sports, and they train all year round, which meant they got all their equipment early, before the official release.

“They have activities right throughout the year. Immediately after the Games they sent athletes overseas so the need for equipment is imminent," he said. 

“Whereas for other sports, they don’t have a full calendar so they can afford to wait. But with weightlifting, their results speak, and they have such a full calendar. If they produce Gold medals, then why not?”

He added that the Federation is constantly knocking on the Government’s door which makes them more alert to their needs over maybe others who do not get their attention. 

“In saying that, we support all the sports, and what we are doing now is to ensure we distribute all the equipment we have as soon as possible.”

Also donated by China for the Pacific Games was the brand new Multipurpose Gymnasium in Tuanaimato, now the home of Netball Samoa who rents office space from the S.S.F.A, and pays to hire the gym space.

While they say exactly what S.F.S.A. charges for use of the gym for training or tournaments, the Samoa Observer understands it is within the realm of $600 per hour. 

Leasiosio said his Ministry is looking into a review of fees and the gymnasium spaces in the area to make sure they are more flexible, and ensure the groups who need to use them can afford to. 

“Right now there are some developments yet to become effective, but it is the mandate of the S.F.S.A. to collect money and use that money to maintain the facilities to supplement the budget we provide," he said. 

“Behind that, Government, my Ministry and a few other organisations are working on reviewing the fees and the use of facilities to make sure sports bodies will have access".

He said he wants to see the facilities being used often, and not left to gather dust. The revised fees and access regulations will be out “soon,” he continued, which means “anytime between now and that day.”

The fleet of sedans, vans and buses have not been scheduled for distribution yet as the Government still intends to use them to transport guests arriving for the March session of the Committee of the Rights of the Child, and in October the landmark signing of the Post-Cotonou Agreement.

Leasiosio said as host nation it is Samoa’s responsibility to provide transport, which is why the Government will keep the vehicles longer.    

Asked why the Ministry does not instead claim the vehicles for itself to keep for such purposes, he said the Government does not have storage space like a garage or parking space for all the vehicles. But with the international meetings coming up in March, he said: “We can afford to hold onto it for a bit longer".

“But if they are still parked in six or seven months that will be an issue for us.” 

Leasiosio, having previously said the vehicles would likely be needed for the Post-Cotonou Agreement signing, said a decision will be made by Cabinet on their future. 

“We have submitted a paper to Cabinet on the use of assets, and it is a bit premature for me to say what was in the recommendation," he said. 

It appears the recommendation suggests keeping some of the fleet but to sell or distribute the rest but Leasiosio declined to be more specific. Aside from the sedan fleet, the vans will go to Ministries “in a flash,” largely to the Ministry of Health and Fire and Emergency Services who have already submitted requests.

There has also been a lot of interest from the private sector in the use of the bus fleet.

Previously, Leasiosio told the Samoa Observer that no decision was being made while the fleet was being used for ferrying guests during international meetings, but that with the last international meeting of the year in 2019 wrapping up the fleet would soon find new life.

Asked why the Government has had access to the use of the donated goods from China before their official release while other interested parties like sports associations have not, the C.E.O. said: “If we give it to Tony, Tom will come and ask.

“Some sports associations have indicated they want equipment and they will be released, we are quite flexible.”

Leasiosio admitted there was no formal communication to sports associations that the Ministry would consider loaning equipment out to them before official distributions were made, but that channels via the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture remained available.

He said no sports associations approached the Ministry to borrow anything and they were not made aware that it was an option. 

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