Ministry's "final warning" over $500,000 tents but no tender
The Ministry of Health has been given a “final warning” and criticised after revelations it paid $500,000 renting tents in a contract that was never put out to tender.
The warning to the Director-General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, was raised by the Minister of Finance and Chairman of the Tenders Board, Sili Epa Tuioti.
It followed the surfacing of an invoice for exactly $500,000 for the rental of tents by the Ministry, which the Minister said had not followed proper tender processes.
The receipt, from Naydith Events Hirage, was for the rentals of tents for three months as part of the Ministry’s coronavirus preparations.
But the Minister said that due process for orders of amounts of such a size had not been followed by the Ministry.
“This should have come before the Tender board and the relevant Ministry should have requested that this was [declared] under urgency matters and we would have made time to address and fast track the quick bidding to assure fairness across the business community,” Sili told the Samoa Observer.
But the Minister said that Cabinet, which must ultimately make decisions on orders of material of such cost, had never been made a part of the ordering process.
The Samoa Observer contacted Leausa for comment via email but did not receive a response by press time.
The Manager of Naydith Events Hirage, Joseph Faolotoi, told the Samoa Observer their tents have been removed from Ministry sites and that the company would otherwise decline to comment.
The Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) for the Ministry of Finance, Leasiosiofaasisina Oscar Malielegaoi, said the tents were rented in April, after the declaration of the national state of emergency the previous month. Due to the extension of the state of emergency the equipment rental was also extended, the C.E.O. said.
“At the time the [rental payments] fell under the discretion of the C.E.O. 's threshold to hire tents; however due to the extensions the [invoice] has reached the threshold which requires the approval of the Tender Board and Cabinet,” Leasiosio told the Samoa Observer.
“Any payment that reaches […] $500,000 it has to go through for approval.
"The payments cannot be made because it has to go through the process in order to pay the suppliers for the work they did
“The [rental was ongoing] and certainly the Ministry [of Health] should have submitted this before the Tenders Board [as] a request for quick bidding because they know which [companies] to seek quotes for the tents.
“And this is to be fair to the other companies that can bid, instead of going to one Company and obviously the best value will be questioned by the board for Government services. The Government’s tender process is quite clear and if they had requested, the board would have met immediately to address this matter.
“But obviously they did not do that. Also they should have sought assistance from the Ministry of Finance.”
Sili said they are questioning who made the decision on this matter whether it was the C.E.O. or the A.C.E.O.
“In fact what we’re doing now after this matter surfaced the Health [Ministry] has been informed that in going forward they are expected to inform the Tenders Board for all and any new purchases,” he said.
The Minister issued a reminder that all Ministries must uphold proper procurement processes, to their benefit but also the companies with which they work, so that they can be assured their payments are issued in a timely manner:
“This is an ongoing problem where the Ministries are not following the due process and the C.E.O.s should be penalised because this does not level the playing field in terms of fairness to the other companies. And efforts are in place to assure that everyone complies with the due process".