Samoa PM Mum Over Finance Minister’s Spending

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Opposition leader: Tuilaepa should find a new minister

By Niccola Hazelman-Siona

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, May 13, 2013) – Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi will "have a talk" with his Minister of Finance, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, when he returns from China.

Faumuina has been under the spotlight during the past weeks for his part in the spending of WST$600,000 [US$254,216] to refurbish his office among other questionable decisions, which have resulted in costly payouts by taxpayers.

During an interview with the Sunday Samoan on Friday, Tuilaepa was not keen to discuss the issue. "I have nothing to say," he said, adding "no comment."

Previously, he indicated he was waiting for Faumuina to return from China where he had been on government business.

But the leader of the Opposition Party, Palusalue Fa’apo II had plenty to say about Faumuina.

During his party’s regular press conference, Palusalue called on Prime Minister Tuilaepa to change his Minister of Finance. Palusalue said Faumuina "has gotten out of hand" and he needs to be let go.

As for Tuilaepa, Palusalue said he needs to "set his Minister straight."

The Opposition leader said Faumuina’s "extravagant spending" has cost taxpayers so much money that could be better spent.

"First the Siva Afi case, then the $5.7 million tala [US$2.4 million] market, then a $600,000 tala office, then the market at Salelologa, when will it end?" asked Palusalue. "And now a 15-storey building which is of no use to anyone."

Palusalue believes Tuilaepa did not know about the recent WST$600,000 cost of Faumuina’s new office.

"There is a policy where anything over WST$500,000 [US$211,846] is tabled in Cabinet for approval," said Palusalue, who is a former Cabinet Minister under Tuilaepa’s regime. "This office was never mentioned which means it could be that Tuilaepa did not know about it."

For this reason – among others - Palusalue believes it is time for Tuilaepa to consider a "new Minister of Finance."

"So much money wasted, money that the people of Samoa are suffering to pay. Tuilaepa needs to do something about Faumuina because Samoa is watching and his government is being shamed. Everything falls back on him (Tuilaepa). It is his minister and the way I see it, there needs to be a change.

"Another minister should be appointed because obviously Faumuina is not doing a good job. Tuilaepa has said to me many times that we (Tautua) do not have anyone qualified to take the position of finance minister but look at what his minister is doing? That is a reflection of the leader."

"For the development of this country and its people, something has to be done.

"We the opposition and the government should be working together which is why we are bringing up these issues." These are relevant issues which affect every citizen of this country. "It is something Tuilaepa needs to carefully consider next time an idea of a 15-storey building comes to mind," he said.

It was not possible to get a comment from Faumuina at press time yesterday.

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