Consistency in enforcing building regulations vital

By The Editorial Board 24 June 2022, 6:00AM

It is good to see the enforcement of Government regulations across the board regardless of standing in the community or political affiliation and membership.

Over the years there have been concerns about builders and contractors cutting corners or disregarding building regulations, which are enforced by the Planning and Urban Management Agency (P.U.M.A.) under the auspices of the Ministry of Works Transport and Infrastructure.

However, an article (District councils put on notice over permit breaches) in the Thursday 23 June 2022 edition of the Samoa Observer, revealed that the Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure put a number of district councils on notice for their non-compliance with building regulations.

Several constituencies have begun their earthwork and laid the foundations in their building of district council offices as part of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) Government’s $1 million district development project.

But Olo Fiti Vaai, when contacted by the Samoa Observer, confirmed that the majority of the district council offices projects did not obtain proper development consent permits that would have authorised their construction.

“They have been reminded of what needs to be done to obtain a development consent and permit, if it is a newly constructed office for the district council,” said Olo. 

“That was one of the areas that was missed from the explanation from the Ministry of Women regarding the offices for district councils. 

“The notice sets out what needs to be done first and to legally authorise the construction for offices.”  

According to the Minister, regardless of whether a classroom or an already established office is being renovated for use as a district council office, a permit is still required for renovation work.

We commend the Minister for pointing out the lack of compliance by the various district councils, despite the construction of the district council offices being a major policy of his F.A.S.T. Government.

We know that there was a lot of pressure on the various district councils to complete their documentation, and sign up for a $200,000 grant each in this fiscal year, in order to qualify for the bigger $1 million grant in the new fiscal year. 

The urgency to submit their applications probably explains the failure by the district councils to ensure compliance with the P.U.M.A. regulations – but then the law is the law and the P.U.M.A. and the legislation that governs it was set up to be a safeguard for everyone. Everyone includes the project developer (including the funding agency) as well as the person or community living within the vicinity of the project site. 

Olo’s reference to the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development (MWCSD) not including P.U.M.A. regulations, during its discussions with the various district councils, confirms the need for the Ministry to create a checklist.

The checklist will have all the boxes that the district councils will need to tick when they submit their paperwork to access the $1 million district grants. Complying with P.U.M.A. regulations should be at the top of the checklist that the MWCSD will distribute to all district councils.

More than 30 constituencies have already signed off on their $200,000 fund to construct their district offices, before they can access the $1 million development fund proposed for the next fiscal year. 

We hope a memo from the MWCSD has filtered down to the responsible officers in the 30 constituencies – after Minister Olo and his Ministry took action – so they are aware of the requirements under the P.U.M.A. regulations.

And this should not only be applicable during the building of their district council offices, but any structure that they plan to construct over the next 4-5 years as part of their district’s development plans.

By The Editorial Board 24 June 2022, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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