Samoa Port Workers Warned Not To Take Bribes

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Taxi operators allegedly paying workers to chase others away

By Iliā L. Likou

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Oct. 2, 2013) – Port workers in Samoa caught getting bribes from taxi drivers face getting fired.

That’s the warning from the Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Ports Authority (SPA), Tufuga Fagaloa Tufuga.

According to him, should "there be any proof that any employee of Samoa Ports Authority receives a commission, fee or any form of reward, he or she shall be terminated and dealt with pursuant to our Employment Policy."

Section 16.2 (d) of the employment policy provides for dismissal if they have "for the benefit of himself/herself received a fee or any form of reward."

His comments were in response to questions from the Samoa Observer following a complaint from a taxi driver, who did not want to be named. He claimed that some port workers are keeping them from the wharf in favour of two taxi drivers.

"Other drivers are chased away," he said.

However, Tufuga denied knowledge of any commission payments from taxi drivers to wharf workers.

"No, I don’t," Tufuga said. He stated that drivers who meet port standards can apply for registration and openly access wharf areas.

This includes the time when cruise ships visit.

"All taxis who are interested in entering the wharf during Cruise visits, should first come to our main office to fill in a ‘Maliega’ form (Standard Agreement), which contains all terms and conditions they should abide to," said Tufuga.

"After paying our regulated cost of WST$5.00 [US$2.12], [they] will then be handed over a pass to enter an allocated port area."

Drivers who fail to meet proper dress and safety standards will not be given a pass, he said. Taxi drivers and tour operators have privately complained for years about commissions being paid to wharf workers, including security.

The latest followed the visit last week by the cruise ship, Rhapsody of the Seas.

"It’s the usual thing for these two drivers and the port workers and I thanked God they were caught," said a driver, asking not to be named.

He alleges that the pair were detained for questioning by police after two tourists were overcharged. The taxi owner said the pair were first questioned by crew from the Nafanua patrol boat, before being turned over to onshore officers.

They were questioned and released later that night. "I am very disappointed with the Police, I heard after the Nafanua team caught the drivers and handed them over to the police, but they released them in the evening of that same day."

He said the two taxi drivers have been overcharging tourists for ages.

What is "really sad" is the bad name that drivers like the wharf pair give to other taxi services, said the driver.

And he claims that the problem is ongoing.

"The latest ship that headed toward Samoa last week, other taxi services were not allowed because of these two."

"This is what happened to our country, while others are doing it, it affects thousands of people that need money for living."

Asked about his understanding of the situation at the wharf, he said, "Oh, those Port Officers knew exactly what’s happening, lakou kama a – that’s their boys."

Tufuga meanwhile confirmed that not all taxi drivers are automatically allowed into wharf areas.

"For your information, all taxis are not allowed within the port area as our main port is guided under ISPS Code, which is an international standard of security for Ports," he said. "This is why we only allow taxis to use the designated Lady Naomi wharf area, except for the tour operators, stall operators and shuttle buses, which are organised and approved by the cruise ships’ local agents."

"However, SPA has put in place mechanisms to control access, especially taxis without proper authorisation to avoid unacceptable behaviour and /or treatments of tourists by taxi drivers who might think they can get away with it."

Police were not available for comment.

Acting Commissioner Fauono Talalelei was overseas.

Nafanua Chief Executive Officer, Tagaloa Iosefatu Wright, was attending a meeting the whole day yesterday.

It is not yet confirmed the amount that these two taxi drivers overcharged the tourists.

Tufuga said that not all taxis meet port standards.

"Taxi drivers with unacceptable clothing will be advised to wear decent or smart formal clothing before entering the wharf."

"This will also include some taxis, which are visibly not in a good condition, as we are concerned about the lives of the passengers, who in this case are the tourists."

The Ports Authority head said that they were working on their standards.

"SPA is working on improving our system to avoid complaints not only from tourists, taxi drivers but from the public as well."

"We do understand that tourists have the free will to catch a taxi anywhere outside SPA premises; therefore, we cannot control safety and security of all transportations for them."

"However, we can only put in measures or advice for their safety and security, which they can opt to use when coming to Samoa."

Tufuga referred to steps being taken by other authorities, including LTA, the Land Transport Authority.

"Currently LTA is looking at ways to regulate taxis and especially stands in terms of raising standards of their services whereby taxi drivers, taxi owners and taxi stands will be held accountable if there is an incident involving tourists."

"This will assist in raising the bar for Samoa’s tourism industry in which STA, LTA, SPA and the private sector must work together to achieve their respective goals," he said.

Online, the official Samoa Tourism Authority website advises caution when dealing with taxi drivers.

"Taxis are not metered so it’s good to have an idea of what the journey will cost and you agree on a price with the driver before setting off," reads a page on the site.

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