Cabinet pays $500,000 tent bill, scolds health chief

Cabinet has paid a $500,000 bill for renting tents but criticised the head of the Ministry of Health for awarding the contract without a competitive bidding process. 

The Minister of Finance and Chairman of the Tender Board, Sili Epa Tuioti, confirmed the Cabinet had approved the payment to Naydith Events Hirage. 

“It is not fair to hold the payment; the service has been provided therefore the Government must do right by them,” the Finance Minister said. 

“The [Health C.E.O., Leausa Take Naseri] and the management have been warned to follow the process and this applies to all the services that are provided by the Ministry.

“This is to assure there is a fair chance for all the businesses to be afforded the opportunity to render a bid.”

Sili said when no-bid incidents occur; there are complaints by the business community the process is not working. 

The payment was for the temporary rental of outdoor structure as part of the Ministry’s preparations for the coronavirus. 

The surfacing of a $500,000 invoice for the rental of tents by the Ministry, had sparked an investigation into how the no-bid contract was awarded. 

The receipt showed Naydith Events Hirage had issued a bill for three months worth of tent rentals. 

The Minister did not specify when the Cabinet approved the payment but stated the Government cannot hold the funds given the services have already been rendered. 

Efforts to get a comment from the Minister of Health, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers and Director General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr Take Naseri, were unsuccessful as of press time.

The Manager of Naydith Events Hirage, Joseph Faolotoi declined to comment when contacted by the Samoa Observer for comments. 

The Finance Minister reminded Government Ministries of the importance of heeding the tender process. 

In August, Sili told the Samoa Observer the contract 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,” he said. 

But the Minister said that Cabinet, which must ultimately make decisions on orders of material of such cost, was never made a part of the ordering process. 

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. 



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