Abuse of public funds in grass cutting scams

By The Editorial Board 09 February 2024, 10:00AM

There is systematic abuse of public funds through some of the government contracts that have been awarded for general work such as cutting grass along the sides of the road. There was a case where the contractor had not cut grass for three months but was being continuously paid.

Now it has been highlighted by some of the villages that are located outside of Apia in a more rural setting that the contractors who are carrying out this work are not doing a proper job. This means that these people are scamming the government and the Samoan people.

They are getting paid for the work that they are not doing. Now it has come to the point that the villagers have to cut the grass which is the government’s responsibility.

Minister for Works Olo Fiti Vaai has said the contracts should be terminated and the amount of money in the contract should be distributed to the villages or the districts to undertake this work. This is a very noble and practical way to solve this problem.

The money will be paid to the district council which will have in employment a set of men whose sole job would be to cut grass along the sides of the road. This way the men who would previously be unemployed have a source of income for their families. This will work if the district council and its employees who are in charge of this do it diligently and with accountability.

The idea is great but the question remains that this could provide someone a method of siphoning the money, which in the past has been known to happen. If this is going to be the future of this type of contracted work, then it must be done through a system that allows for checks and balances almost on a fortnightly basis.

The cutting of grass along the highway and sides of the roads is an important task. It increases roadside visibility leading it to being safer for motorists and pedestrians. Keeping grass short also promotes good health, especially in a tropical climate where mosquitoes could breed in long grasses where there is stagnant water.

Not only does it have an aesthetic appeal but for health and safety as well. Samoa is growing and along with it its population. People who have returned home after a decade or even longer cannot fathom the development that has taken place.

It is about time a department is created under the Ministry of Works that would do tasks such as cutting grass, cleaning drains, sweeping the streets and other such work similar to a municipal council. Create depots in locations and carry on the work from there.

From what it seems, the contractors who have these jobs are not being monitored. If this is the case then it is a failure on the side of the government to keep the contractors accountable. The contractors must have capitalised on the lack of feedback and that no one was holding them accountable.

Perhaps, that could be the solution to all that. Monitoring and proper processes that ensure accountability from the end of the contractors. A position does not have to be created, it can be added to the roles of supervisors to conduct regular surveys to find out if the grass is not cut.

A clause should be entered into the contract that the contractor is found not to have carried out the work or if the work is not done to the standard required, then the contract could be forfeited.

It is just not about grass and public safety, it is also about public funds and the abuse of it. There is a serious need for better services when it comes to this type of work. There is also a serious need to hold people accountable when it comes to public funds.

Imagine hiring a builder to build a home, and when he hands it over to you, you realise it is smaller than what was specified. Now that is stealing. So are the contractors who are not doing their work properly or at all.

The government should consider criminal charges if they are possible, to set an example that it is not right to abuse public funds.

By The Editorial Board 09 February 2024, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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