SNPF chair needs to explain himself

By The Editorial Board 26 February 2024, 10:00AM

The alleged conduct of the Chairman of the Samoa National Provident Fund (S.N.P.F.) Papali’I Panoa Moala warrants urgent action from the Government. It is concerning that he is allegedly using his authority to get loans worth millions of dollars approved for his close contacts.

Firstly, the staff who felt the need to raise the conduct of the chair with the Ministry of Finance should be commended for they are concerned that the alleged actions of Papali’i could lead to a major financial catastrophe.

SNPF is the backbone of this country. People have always turned to the superannuation body for financial assistance where eligible and it provides support to many when they retire. It is also a source for investments where the returns go back to members as dividends. The money that the SNPF holds belongs to the people of this country.

The alleged actions by the chairman show abuse of power and abuse of his office. Does the chairman think that he is not accountable to the people of this country? The employees of SNPF and the board members serve the people of this country and not the other way around.

Why is Papali’I making decisions without consultation with management and other board members? It is believed that many of these decisions contravene established policies meant to guide the Fund's operations, leading to confusion and uncertainty among staff.

Such institutions have guidelines and policies for a reason and that is for accountability and transparency which the chairman is not showing.

Papali'i purportedly acquired a new S23 phone from Digicel, instructing the telecommunication company to bill SNPF for the device and cover the costs of his phone plans. That phone costs more than $5,000 and then gets money transferred to his sister’s account when he allegedly bought an iPad in New Zealand.

Is the chairman under the delusion that the SNPF is a family-operated business? Then he allegedly approves for himself roaming data when he goes abroad and a credit of $100 per week. That if added up equals $5,200 per year.

S.N.P.F. resources have been squandered on unnecessary expenses, contrary to existing policies.

The government lacks a policy permitting such acquisitions for the Chair and Board members, leading to an unjustifiable increase in expenses within the budget allocated for board members.

Another accusation revolves around a significant loan application exceeding $10 million tala from a specific church, purportedly put forth through Papali'i. The chairman failed to disclose his conflict of interest in processing the application, despite his ties to the church in question.

Why is the Minister of Finance silent on this matter? This is time that the chairman be suspended until an immediate investigation takes place into the allegations outlined in the letter. If the employees' allegations are correct, then there have been breaches of policy and there certainly has been abuse of office.

It is clear that the staff and management have had enough and that is the reason they are taking this action. The alleged actions of the chairman are unbelievable. As the chair of the board, he does not have the authority to be micromanaging. He sits on the board and should limit his activities just to that.

It is also unbelievable that the chairman dares to believe that he does not need to explain himself to the people of this country. As a newspaper, the Samoa Observer is the voice of the people and his inability to respond to the allegations in the letter shows that he may think that he has done nothing wrong.

The people require the SNPF to provide a complete list of loans where Papali’I interfered and had them approved. The people have the right to know how and where their money is being used. A $10 million loan to a church, how many others have the chairman allowed? What are the possibilities of recovering these loans?

Papali’I has seven days to explain and it will be sometime this week when that is done. After the explanation has been provided, the Minister of Finance needs to hold a press conference and tell the people of this country what actions have been decided upon.

The people of this country are not happy that people in authority are abusing their power. The Associate Minister of Finance is yet to explain his hand in the missing $150,000 from the district grant and now a chair of the SNPF thinks he can do what he wants and, in the process, has approved loans amounting to millions of dollars.

We need the leaders of this nation to stand up and be accountable and transparent. Most of all, hold people in authority accountable. If they are doing what they are not supposed to, stand them down. If there is abuse of office and power, change them.

The people of this country deserve better.

By The Editorial Board 26 February 2024, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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