Hard work, honesty behind Port Authority turnaround: C.E.O.

Internal controls were key to ensuring the Samoa Port Authority (S.P.A.) turned a profit in the three years since it has turned its financial fortunes around, its Chief Executive Officer says.

“It all comes down to hard working and honest staff,” said So’oalo Kuresa So’oalo who was recently reappointed to the S.P.A. as the Chief Executive Officer for another three years. 

This is So’oalo’s second term with the S.P.A., which paid a total Cash Dividends of $9.5 million tala to the Government during its last three financial years. 

In 2019, the S.P.A. paid off its $18 million term debt to the Unit Trust of Samoa, something indicated in its Financial Year 2019 annual report. 

 In 2015 the S.P.A. recorded a $10 million loss; two years later So’oalo came on board.

“In a business you need a loan and the attitude applied to these types of situations [... also] called appetite for lending,” the C.E.O. said. 

“Any excess cash, we put it to the loan. It does reduce the interest but it also allows a path and the capacity for the business to borrow. 

“And so if there are new developments the opportunity is there for us to make another loan.”

The loan was paid the year that the S.P.A. celebrated the 20th anniversary of its formal establishment under the Ports Authority Act 1998. 

Last year the Authority also recorded a net profit of $8.69 million as a result of sustained corporate discipline and performance as well as the newly developed wharf and greatly improved port systems. 

So’oalo told the Samoa Observer these achievements were the product of a team effort, from the respective Board of Directors down to the staff. 

“As I said before, having honest and hardworking staff is something to be proud of. It also has to do with the leader walking the talk. You have to practice what you say,” the Authority’s head said.  

According to the C.E.O. their office holds a weekly prayer service. 

“I make this a priority because I used the opportunity to remind them basic principles of life and be honest in everything we do,” he said. 

So’oalo said the Authority also invests in the development of skills for their staff and they hold refresher courses to assist them and especially in the areas of customer service. 

Other projects that So’oalo highlighted in his three years are the extension of the Matautu wharf, the cable warehouse. 

He also mentioned the ongoing Matautu wharf project funded by the Asian Development Bank to the amount of $187.5 million.

The project will raise the breakwater and defend against rising sea levels for the next 100 years, as well as to lower disruptive sea swells at the port. 

Son of So’oalo Taua Sepulona and Menime Ete So’oalo, So’oalo is from Paia Samauga, Lalomalava, Fusi Safotulafai, Tuanaimato and Lepea. 

A devoted member of the Catholic Church, he’s married to Fonomua Makerita So’oalo and they have a son and two grandchildren. 

He was also a student at the National University of Samoa where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Commerce Accounting. 

So’oalo holds a Masters of Business Administration from the University of the South Pacific and he is also a certified Chartered Accountant.

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