"Tricky" contract variations over with: Minister
The days of "tricky" variations Government contracts are over, as the Vice Chairman of the Tenders Board warns requests for budget variations to Government work will no longer be entertained.
Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, also the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, said Government contracts would now be considered final.
The Minister was responding to comments made by a Member of Parliament, La'aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polata'ivao, who expressed concerns about variations being made to the cost of Government-awarded contracts.
“I agree with La’auli, some contractors are so tricky," he said.
"They submit a low bid so they can win the tender, then they submit a variation and yet they knew very well the work is much more than the bid they submitted."
But the Minister said the Government was putting its foot down to forbid any contractor-initiated variations.
“Gone are the times where variations were allowed by the previous Tenders Board: that does not happen anymore," he said.
“We will not accept any variation unless the Government knows it is required and when there is a change in the project it has to be initiated by the Government, not the contractor".
The Minister gave a recent example of how more stringent policies against proposed variations worked.
“Recently there was a tender for the Ministry of Police for the clearing of land where the Police Academy will be located," he said.
"They were informed that no variation was allowed. But two weeks later a variation was submitted and it was flatly denied by the Tenders Board".
Papali’i declined to divulge the name of the company but records obtained by the Samoa Observer show the contract was awarded to Lee Transport.
Records show Lee Transport won a contract with a value of $90,000 was awarded for eight acres of clearing of a compound allocated to the Ministry of Police by the Samoa Land Corporation.
The Samoa Observer visited the Lee Transport main office in Vaivase; queries were referred to employee Telesia Mavaega.
Ms. Mavaega disputed claims that a variation was requested so soon after after the awarding of the contract.
“It was not [submitted] two weeks after,” she said.
She then declined to comment on further questions about the bid before referring questions to Samoa Roy Lee, the owner of the Company.
“It was Roy that met with them and I am not aware as to what was discussed,” she said on Tuesday.
Samoa was unavilable for interview on Tuesday as he remains outside of the country.
Papali’i further explained the variations will only be allowed when it is “absolutely necessary" citing the example of a $3 million variation to the Ti'avea Airport Project revealed on Sunday.
In April last year, a memorandum of agreement between the Government and the Ti’avea Village Council was signed confirming the project would cost $14 million.
The airport building component was estimated to have cost $10 million while $4 million in compensation was set aside for 26 acres of land belonging to Ti’avea families.
Papali’i said that $3 million has been approved for the variation due to alleged interference by villagers in the area.
“The villagers started to interfere with works and so it [runway] had to be shifted further down land,” Papali'i said.
“Other families [who own land further down the runway] were consulted and agreed [to clear the land] so there is no more interruption with works. The Government works cannot be stopped.”
The Minister explained the $3 million variation for the project had to cover for costs in alleviating the ground for the runway because the land was waterlogged.
He said the variation was submitted and approved by the Tenders Board and, due to the amount of money involved in the variation, Cabinet had to inspect the area.
Papali’i added that the changes in the design meant raising the ground's level and installing culvert pipelines to drain water that pooled on rainy days.