M.P. rejects "illegal" import claim
Former Speaker, Member of Parliament Laaulialemalietoa Leuaatea Schmidt, has rejected a report from the Finance and Expenditure Committee which found he “illegally” imported a generator.
The findings have followed the investigation of the hearing before the Privileges and Ethics Committee that was appointed last month.
“I reject the report [of the Finance and Expenditure Committee] because it's not right," he said.
"I did not testify; they should have given me a chance to testify to the allegations they have tabled in Parliament. Some of the contents of that report is inaccurate.”
The Committee is chaired by Deputy Speaker, Nafoitoa Talaimanu Keti with members including Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi; Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo; Taefu Lemi; Tafua Maluelue Tafua; Aumua Isaia Lameko; Tofa Foleni Galu and Alaiasa Sepulona Moananu.
La’auli first drew attention to his generator when he criticised the Government's plans to spend $300,000 on a standby generator for the Tanumalala Prison facility in January this year.
At the time, La'auli stated that he recently bought a generator for personal use that had only cost $72,000 and he queried whether Parliament's Finance and Expenditure Committee had looked into alternatives.
But the M.P.'s questions drew a swift rebuke from Tuilaepa, who moved a motion requiring the M.P. to provide paperwork to back up his claims to the Finance Committee for an investigation.
According to the Finance and Expenditure Committee, the capacity of the lawmaker’s standby generator bought by the M.P. is 30KVA not 200KVA presented.
“The Member’s speech about the standby generator being purchased last year 2019 was inaccurate,” the Committee found.
“The cost of the member’s generator was NZD$13,5000 (SAT $22,950) not SAT$100,000 as mentioned in Parliament. The Committee also found that the duty fee [or] charge for the generator that was imported into the country on 30 December, 2017 was not fully paid for.
“It was also found during its investigation that the importation of this good/item into the country was illegal as it was not in accordance with the laws of importation of goods monitored by the Ministry of Customs and Revenue,” says the Finance and Expenditure Committee report.”
La'auli said the Committee is deviating from a mandate to investigate the appropriate pricing of the Government’s generator to become an inquiry focused solely on the circumstances in which he had purchased his own.
“When I first questioned this matter in Parliament I requested for the investigation to be conducted by an Independent Committee; not the Finance and Expenditure Committee, because we were debating over the cost of the generator [for the prison] which is $300,000 compared to the cost of my generator,” he said.
“I want to be given an opportunity to testify to explain my side; because the report submitted is not right and it’s one sided and it’s a clear conflict of interest.”
La’auli explained that the Finance and Expenditure Committee should have never investigated his claims, because he was disputing their finance report submitted in Parliament.
“Their claims that I didn’t pay the duties are false. I paid for it; the cost that was outlined by the Customs Agent to me; that’s what I paid for,” said the M.P.
Legislative Clerk, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, told the Samoa Observer, that M.P. La'auli will have his chance to testify before the Privilege and Ethics Committee, when they hold Committee hearings after postponements related to the coronavirus.