Half-million tent bill "common sense": P.M.
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has defended a $500,000 bill for tent rentals without a tender process, saying it was simply “common sense" for the Ministry of Health to order them.
Earlier this week, the Samoa Observer reported that the Cabinet had paid $500,000 to Naydith Events for tents and other outdoor equipment rented to prepare for a potential coronavirus outbreak.
The Finance Minister, Sili Epa Tuioti, said the Government needed to pay its bills but warned the Health Ministry’s senior management and C.E.O, Leauasa Dr. Take Naseri, for bypassing tender processes.
“There are certain matters where one must use common sense especially in a situation of preparations [against the coronavirus],” said the Prime Minister.
On his weekly state-media programme, the Prime Minister said the article published by the Samoa Observer made it seem like “it’s a big issue."
"But there are certain cases where common sense must be applied,” he said. “At times of crisis there are policies in place for such matters to assure the [Government] service is not delayed."
He referenced an incident during which the Minister of Works services were terminated in 1989 for breaking the law following the collapse of the Vaimoso bridge during flooding.
“Again there are certain times we must use our common sense and make hasty decisions due to the nature of the matter," Tuilaepa said.
"In this case, the [M.O.H.] were preparing for the repatriation flights and assuring the tents were for preparations of the [coronavirus] they end up bypassing the tender process, but it will always end up at Cabinet.”
The surfacing of a $500,000 invoice for the rental of tents by the Ministry had sparked an investigation into how the no-bid contract was awarded.
This week, Sili, who is also Chairman of the Tenders Board, told the Samoa Observer there were means for contracts to be awarded urgently while still complying with requirements.
“The [Health C.E.O., Leausa Take Naseri] and the management have been warned to follow the process and this applies to all the services that are provided by the Ministry,” he said.
“This is to assure there is a fair chance for all the businesses to be afforded the opportunity to render a bid.”
Sili said when no-bid incidents occur; there are complaints by the business community the process is not working.
Tuilaepa commended the Minister of Finance for performing his role as the Chairman of the Tenders Board.
“But when there is a high demand for immediate help, the Ministry does not wait but contact the company directly for assistance,” the Prime Minister said.
“Keep in mind, the health sector’s main goal is to save lives, but the Ministry of Finance is to oversee public funds.
“We have the policies, but there is also common sense.”
The Prime Minister then drew an analogy he said was reflective of the need for using common sense.
“Murder is illegal under the law of God, but is it murder when someone comes at you with a machete, you take off on foot, and then fall down and you find a rock within your reach?,” he asked.
“Your reaction is to throw the rock targeting the head, and the brains will splatter, is that murder? No [...] the bottom line is [to] use your brain,” he said.
The Manager of Naydith Events Hireage, Joseph Faolotoi declined to comment when contacted by the Samoa Observer for comments.
The Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) for the Ministry of Finance, Leasiosiofaasisina Oscar Malielegaoi, said the tents were rented in April, after the declaration of the national state of emergency the previous month.
Due to the extension of the state of emergency the rental of the equipment rental was also extended, the C.E.O. said.