P.M. tells local contractors to shape up

Construction companies' workmanship has been put under the radar in the Parliament with the Prime Minister adamant those who did not meet up to high standards will miss out on getting contracts.

Responding to a speech in the Parliament on Thursday by the Palauli-le-Falefa M.P. Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi said the decision on which companies win contracts will ultimately depend on their honesty and good performance.

Faumuina had earlier pleaded to the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, that the tender for the Alaoa Dam Project is not open to international companies and instead should be restricted to local contractors.

Sili had said in an earlier session of the House that the project required the international expertise due to the magnitude of work required.

But Faumuina said local firms should be considered as joint venture partners if the tender is awarded to a foreign firm.

"I believe you, what you said is correct, but we can also maybe look into a way our local companies can participate in the project as a joint venture," he said. "The reason why joint ventures are important is to allow overseas companies to work closely with local companies as there is a requirement I do not like from the World Bank as well as the Asian Development Bank – the cash flow requirement.

"Who in Samoa has 10 to 20 million in the bank? We have many in there but in the form of assets."

However, Sili interrupted Faumuina's speech and gave the assurance that it is the intention of the Government to partner overseas companies with local contractors, to ensure the expertise and skills is passed on for the development of the business and future development projects.

"There is no intention of the Government to leave all the work to overseas contractors,” the Minister added.

Tuilaepa then took the floor and said the issues regarding World Bank requirements are complex, as it is an institution with shares from 200-plus countries and Samoa is not the only state that is asking for tender requirements to be eased.

The Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure, Papalii Niko Lee Hang, also added to the debate and indicated that there are many projects being planned which local contractors can benefit from.

"Incoming assistance always comes with conditions, and if they cannot be satisfied by these contractors then our local contractors cannot get the contract,"  Papalii said. "For example, there are many works recently completed including the Maliolio Bridge which was received by an overseas contractor.

“But after the requests of our Government through the Finance Ministry to accommodate restrictions for our local contractor, it was eventually awarded to Ah Liki Construction. 

"We also have upcoming works funded by the A.D.B. of the Cross Island Road that is in preparations and we are constantly advising to ensure our local contractors can qualify and so they are given the chance for joint ventures.”

Papalii indicated that only one company qualified for the West Coast Road project in Ott Construction. 

“However, it was the intention of the Government to give the chance to local contractors to earn from the project and the World Bank approved of a joint venture."

Papalii was referring to the 1.8 kilometre section of the road between Puipa’a and Faleula worth $6 million which was built by Silva Transport, Ulia Construction and TN Toleafoa.

Tuilaepa then said that the time frame that local contractors take to satisfy requirements imposed is part of the reason why some developments are delayed.

"While [other construction companies] argue they want the contract, it is Ott Construction that is fully equipped with the expertise and resources to compete with any overseas contractor; Ott Construction can do any road and complete all the road works; the top quality needed," he said.

"This is the role of the Minister and the Ministry of Works who carry out this Government policy, to encourage the locals with this knowledge to enhance their skills, and that's the reason why after tough negotiations, the three businesses were allowed to venture jointly.

"I have also talked to these three companies to speed up the operations and ensure it is of top quality. 

“I don't know how many times their asphalt mixture was rejected by the L.T.A. (Land Transport Authority) saying the durability of the asphalt is not suitable for the road." 

The Prime Minister also criticised the practice of some contractors who he said “take shortcuts”, adding they do not understand that they may face a tko when the task is not up to par. 

"This is why you see that while the Ott Construction work has long been completed, these three's work is still in progress, as we try to lift the quality of their work so that the World Bank can continue to allow their participation in such large projects from overseas," he said. 

"And with all these projects looming, the advice to all these contractors is that while there is massive wealth from these large developments, the limiting of overseas contractors relies on your just performance and honesty. 

"This is why it is important to raise these issues in Parliament so that they can listen in. 

“I do not know how many times I have summoned all of them for the Cabinet to speak to them directly to work honestly (fa'amaoni).

"Especially those who maintain the roads, to resurface the roads well rather than dumping sand on the potholes. 

“There is a lot of dishonest work going on, but it is the Government's attempts to encourage these companies to shape up because the more good companies we have the better the competition." 

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