Ethics Committee criticised La'auli, Ministries too

The Privileges and Ethics Committee report that triggered Laaulialemalietoa Leuaatea Schmidt’s resignation also found Government Ministries behaved improperly when procuring the generator the Member of Parliament first complained about.

Laauli’s complaints about the $300,000 standby generator for the Tanumalala Prison - and claim to have bought a generator for much cheaper - ultimately led to his being investigated and censured on Tuesday before his resignation. 

But the Samoa Observer has obtained a copy of the 56-page report on the Former Speaker and Cabinet Minister Laauli; it cites Government agencies including the Prisons Ministry as behaving “hastily” when spending large sums of money. 

Parliament voted to accept the report - but not its recommendation to suspend the M.P. for three months, instead to issue him a formal warning. But by then he had announced his resignation.  

Lauuli 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 similarly charged 200KVA 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 required the M.P. to provide paperwork to back up his claims to the Finance Committee for an investigation.

In April a first investigation by the Finance and Expenditure Committee found that he “illegally” imported a generator whose capacity of which was only 30KVA and in 2017-18 not 2019 as originally stated. 

The matter was referred to a Privileges and Ethics Committee for guidance, the report of which was tabled on Tuesday. 

“[The] Committee believes that the onus is on the member to provide evidence that would support his statements,” the report concluded.

“He continued to provide incorrect documents to support his argument.

“Therefore the Committee is of the opinion that the Member deliberately attempted to mislead Parliament by way of evidence.”

The Committee recommended a three-month suspension without pay as a penalty for the M.P.s conduct but the chamber of Parliament proved less receptive to that recommendation but the M.P. resigned before debate could be resolved.

But it was not only the Member of Parliament that the Privileges and Ethics Committee criticised. 

The Committee noted their investigation uncovered negligence on the part of the Prison and Corrections Services in its tendering for its generator. 

 “According to the oral submission of the Prison and Correction Services before the Committee, “o lea sa fai au-tago lava e matou I gauta e aunoa ma le malamalama le sailia ose afi mo le falepuipui fou (we were not sure but they did it anyway). 

“And this is the main reason why the Prisons did not act hastily to buy a generator.

“The Committee believes that this is not the way a Government ministry should implement a situation where a large amount of money is involved. [The] Committee believes that there are already systems in place to ensure that the funds allocated to each Ministry are utilised wisely.”  

The Committee also noted no expert advice on what kind of generator would be suitable was ever sought by the Prisons Ministry. 

The Committee also noted the Prison Minstry’s first request for tender drew three quotations from two companies. But the Tenders Board declined all three because, apart from the lack of advice, work such as installation and testing was not included in the quotation.

Submissions by the Finance and Prison Ministries also found no company submitted its bid to provide the generator in time to meet the deadline for the request for tender. Despite that, the Finance Ministry used a bid submitted past the deadline to determine that $300,000 was an appropriate price for the generator. 

The Committee also found some employees with the Ministry of Customs and Revenue were negligent when determining duty fees for items shipped into the country as personal effects. 

An internal investigation by the Ministry into the generator in question found led to the suspension and later re-hiring but demotion of an officer-involved in importing the generator. 

Problems involved in the importation of the generator included the employee’s assessment that duty was payable for only one item, when the generator was part of six separate items imported.

Fees of more than $7000 were payable on the remaining 

“There are some of the issues that the Committee noted during its investigation which shows weaknesses in the processes of the Ministry of Customs and Revenue,” the report concluded.

The Committee also urged the Ministry to continue seeking and implementing effective processes and systems that will ensure effective collection of taxes and duty fees from items shipped into the country to assist with the national revenue.”  


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