Vaiaata sets bad example, says Lefau
An election candidate and former Member of Parliament, Lefau Harry Schuster, has criticised the Government for setting a poor example by bypassing procurement processes and planning laws in constructing the $600,000 Vaia’ata Prison.
The Government has recently stopped and then restarted the project, which was revealed to have not gone through a tender process and undergone construction for months without a permit.
“[This is] a poor example to set,” Lefau said.
“We all obey the law because it should be followed, but when lawmakers choose not to follow the law, then you ask me and everyone else: ‘Why should we follow the law if they don’t follow the law themselves?”
Earlier this month the Finance Minister, Sili Epa Tuioti, said the corporate structure behind the public building would be scrapped and put out to tender. But the Cabinet overturned that decision.
Last month the Minister of Police and Prisons Tialavea Tionisio Hunt said that work at the building site began early last year, without the Planning and Urban Management Agency (P.U.M.A.) issuing a development consent to allow construction to officially begin.
Tialavea told the Samoa Observer that he did not think it was illegal for the prison construction work to start without a valid permit.
“I made the call for the project to proceed without a permit," he said in an earlier interview.
Lefau, who is an opposition candidate for the forthcoming election, expressed his disappointment over the Government’s behaviour regarding this project.
“A responsible Government should be self-accountable and the processes are there to account everyone including the government for what they do,” he said.
“But when they choose not to do that, its flagrant disobedience of the good governance practice.”
Lefau said the Government had a responsibility to the taxpayers.
“Not only are they not following the law they are wasting our resources,” he said.
“When you are flagrant and you choose not to follow the law it is like saying I am above the law as nothing will happen to me.
“They need to lead by example [...] people elect leaders and [they are] trusted to set good examples.
“These are public funds being used to build this prison, therefore it should have gone through the tendering processes to ensure that qualified and certified contractors [were used].”
It was cancelled by the Ministry of Works Transport and Infrastructure (M.W.T.I) last month after it was revealed construction on the site had continued for nine months before it received development approval.
Lefau said the Government’s flouting their own policies was wrong.
“The reason [development regulations] are there is to ensure safety and standards and by not following this process the Government is not meeting their own standards and not obeying the law that they passed,” said Lefau.
The Samoa Observer reached out to Minister Tialavea for comments that were not responded to as of press time.