"Cowards," Games Minister responds
The Minister driving Samoa's Pacific Games preparations, Loau Solamalemalo Sio, has defended the Pacific Games Office against criticism directed at its recruitment of key personnel - including the involvement of the brother of the Games Chief Executive Officer.
The Minister of the Education, Sports and Culture who is also the Pacific Games Chairman said members of the public who complained about the Office's recruitment policy are "cowards", pointing out that most of the skilled staff they have on board are working on a voluntary basis.
“The Pacific Games Office is working on a tight budget," he said. "This means we don’t have money to pay some of the top positions, hence taking in volunteers, which includes the Project Manager, Alfred (Matatia) the brother of the C.E.O. Falefata (Hele Matatia),” he said in an interview with Samoa Observer.
The Office came under scrutiny last year over the engagement of Philippa Matatia – who is the wife of C.E.O. Hele Matatia – as the Communication and Marketing Manager.
This time the recruitment of the brother of the C.E.O., Alfred Matatia, as the Project Manager has not gone unnoticed.
However, the Minister declared that there is no conflict of interest and Mr. Matatia is offering his services free of charge to the Office.
“We cannot afford to hire a local engineer. We just don’t have the money and so when people like Alfred offer their services free of charge, we take advantage of the opportunity.
“He is doing it for free out of his good heart and this is what I call patriotism – and so when people complain about it instead of getting on board to help with the preparations – they are cowards,” he added.
Mr. Matatia is an Engineer by profession and has been tasked by the Pacific Games Committee to oversee the construction of facilities for the 2019 Pacific Games in July this year. He has a bachelor in engineering (B.Eng.) as well as civil engineering from the Monash University and graduated with Honours in the Field of Civil Engineering.
According to Loau, his work is to oversee the renovations and report back to the Pacific Games Committee.
“He (Alfred) prepares a report of his overview of the project and then submits it to us for review, and if there were any issues with the construction of the project, it is his responsibility to address it. And he has been doing a good job since he came on board."
While the Minister acknowledged that the concerns were valid, he stressed that they do not have additional funding to fill the top positions within the Office, and they were fortunate to have him on board.
“He supervises designs and construction for all civil-related projects for the Samoa Electric Power Corporation and also manages all related contracts from their inception phase to tender preparation, evaluation, award and execution. Provide the corporation with civil engineering advise where required."
Attempts by this newspaper to get comments from the Pacific Games C.E.O. as well as the Project Manager were unsuccessful.