Is it possible to have a Parliament without a government?
Six years ago Samoa’s Supreme Law - its Constitution - was dealt a resounding blow. Deemed unwarranted by many at the time though, nevertheless it seemed the man wielding the blow - Samoa’s Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi - was absolutely sure that what he was doing was right.
It appeared that his aim was to nullify Controller and Chief Auditor Fuimaono C. Afele’s reports on the Treasury Department’s financial spending – among other commitments - for the years 2010 and 2012 for whatever reason it has not been spelt out, and yet as it turned out, he succeeded.
Still, what could have followed might have been quite unthinkable to say the least, had not the people of this country believed totally that when it came to what their current prime minister had fixed his mind on so to speak, it was time then to agree totally that nothing anyone might do – or say - could ever rattle his resolve.
Still, now that those reports will have been rearranged so that any veracity they might have held will have most likely been destroyed, the unavoidable conclusion is that all public funds that had been spent on putting them together might as well be written down, as fodder for corruption so that it is allowed to remain alive and well in Samoa.
What’s more, now that those reports had not been tabled in Parliament as the law had decreed, the message for everyone who was keen to listen then was pretty much as clear as daylight.
It said since the precedence had been established, there was nothing anyone could do from then on to stop Parliament from breaking any law it had made, as well as even those it had yet to make.
As a result, today we are living in a country lorded over by a seemingly law-abiding Parliament which is wonderful, since that way the suggestion is made that in there it’s quite possible that law-breaking is not commonplace.
So let’s see.
Samoa’s Supreme Law – or its Constitution if you prefer - is clear on the role of the Controller and Chief Auditor.
Article 97 (12) says: “There shall be a Controller and Chief Auditor, who shall be appointed by the Head of State, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister.
“The Controller and Chief Auditor shall audit the Treasury Fund, such other public funds or accounts as may be established, the accounts of all Departments and offices of executive government and the accounts of such other public, statutory or local authorities and bodies as may be provided by Act.”
And now, as if to ensure that vital reminder is succinctly clear and adhered to, Samoa’s Supreme Law insists: “The Controller and Chief Auditor shall report at least once annually to the Legislative Assembly on the performance of his functions under this Article, and shall in his report draw attention to any irregularities in the accounts audited by him.”
Which is where the confusion arises.
The question is: How can the Controller and Chief Auditor carry out his constitutional responsibilities pertaining to his reports on Treasury’s financial transactions, if his reports for the years 2010 and 2011 had taken a long time to be tabled in Parliament, and then they had not even been debated there as the law decreed?
Indeed, what might have happened if the government had insisted on obeying the law instead of shunning it as if it did not exist, especially with its handling of those reports by the Controller and Chief Auditor?
In addition, what might have happened if Prime Minister Tuilaepa had not snubbed the reports as if there was something seriously wrong with them, and then passed them on to the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C.) with the instructions to review them, and then get back to Parliament?
We repeat. That was six years ago.
Asked for a comment yesterday, C.C.A. Fuimaono said in a written statement “the government’s response to the O.P.C. report of corrective, remedial actions and explanations came out in 2014.”
In the meantime, “the audit reports for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 are currently being prepared for submission to the new Parliament by December 2016 at the latest.”
He also said: “The audits and reports of Ministries and Public Bodies are updated first to 2015 before the audit reports to parliament for the same period are prepared and completed.”
And lastly he wrote: “I trust the above will help with your questions.”
Still, why is it that there is this nagging fear Samoa’s Supreme Law is under threat of being abolished by the governing Human Rights Protection Party?
Indeed, with its near-absolute majority in Parliament at the moment, is it possible for the Parliament to just do away with government if it felt like it?
Tell us what you think.
Note: The comments by the Controller and Chief Auditor, Fuimaono Camillo Afele, were given to reporter Lanuola Tusani Tupufia, during an interview yesterday.