Minister defends P.U.M.A. transfer
The Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, has defended transferring the Planning and Urban Management Agency to within his Ministry.
The P.U.M.A., which is responsible for regulating planning across Samoa, was previously overseen by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
The transfer took place in 2019.
“The transfer [was necessary] due to the fact there are a number of delays on the development [projects] of members of the public, hence the transfer,” Papali’i said.
P.U.M.A. oversees the use, development, management and protection of land in Samoa. Its mission is to do so in the present and long-term interests of all Samoans.
The M.N.R.E. annual report identified the transfer of the Agency as one of the Ministry’s major challenges.
According to the report, the short notice given to the M.N.R.E. and the M.W.T.I. about the transfer was a major challenge.
Difficulties listed included challenges finding office space for staff, including P.U.M.A.’s Assistant Chief Executive Officer.
“This sudden transfer gave little time for the Ministries involved to facilitate the move as several matters had to be quickly resolved between the two Ministries,” the report said.
“Although the Division of P.U.M.A. remains on Level 1 of the T.A.T.T.E. building, the Assistant Chief Executive Officer’s office is still located on Level 3 where M.N.R.E. is located.
“It is hoped that an office for the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of P.U.M.A. is constructed at the earliest on Level 4 of the T.A.T.T.E. building to further strengthen the coordination and communication between the M.W.T.I. management and the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of P.U.M.A.”
Papali’i told the Samoa Observer there was a valid reason behind the transfer: to overcome delays in the issuance of development permits which are a necessary precondition to constructing any building.
“The transfer was due to the delay in the work conducted [by the Ministry to expedite] the process to assist the public with their development projects in terms of issuing [development] permits,” he said.
According to Papali’i the transfer was not his choice; it was a Cabinet decision.
Emails for comments sent to the M.N.R.E. Chief Executive Officer, Ulu Bismark Crawley, were not answered by press time.
The M.N.R.E.’s annual report noted that with the move to M.W.T.I. the number of drivers was limited and as such P.U.M.A. principal officers were assigned to drive vehicles when staff members performed assessments on projects.
“This takes up a lot of time for principal officers out of the office,” the report states.
“To ensure principal officers spend quality time in the office to do their work, it is urgent that a request to P.S.C. [Public Service Commission] for additional drivers is facilitated so as to help ease the workload facing senior staff of the agency.”