Samoa Minister Denies Wasting Public Money On Trucks

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Le Mamea says 11 vehicles bought with World Bank grant funds

By Iliā L. Likou

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Nov. 13, 2013) –Samoa’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Le Mamea Ropati Mualia, has rejected claims his Ministry has wasted taxpayer money in the purchase of 11 brand new Ford Ranger trucks.

Estimated to cost WST$96,000 [US$40,674] per vehicle, critics argue the WST$1.05 million [US$444,878] spent on the vehicles could have been used to improve productivity among farmers in the rural areas.

But the Minister disagrees.

"I strongly disagree with those allegations," he told the Samoa Observer yesterday.

"Yes, we bought eleven Ford vehicles but it wasn’t from the government or farmers’ money, it was bought from the WST$5 million [US$2.1 million] grant from the World Bank under the project named S.A.C.E.P. It’s part of the project."

The Minister said each vehicle cost about WST$96,000 and "we bought it all from the money from the World Bank as mentioned before."

S.A.C.E.P. stands for Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project.

Asked where the old vehicles have gone, he said that the ministry was still using them.

"It is two different things - those vehicles are still used by the Ministry for their own normal work day to day," he said.

"But the eleven vehicles that the Ministry bought from the fund that the World Bank granted are for that project only."

He said the project needs strong, robust vehicles for field inspections of projects approved under the enhancement project.

"We approved 53 applications ready to receive the grant and this is not the only amount that the project is looking towards."

"The Ministry is expecting more and more applications."

He said there were over 2,000 applications that they have received and the ministry is slowly working through them all so that everyone will get what the project offered.

"That’s the reason we need those huge, heavy-duty pick-ups because not only are we looking at applications but we must also do inspections."

"Those plantations can be on hills, rough roads and in other difficult areas but it will be easier if we have those tough vehicles."

[PIR editor's note: Meanwhile, Le Mamea also confirmed a vehicle belonging to his ministry, being driven by assistant CEO Misa Konelio, was involved in an accident last week. Alcohol was allegedly involved, and Misa has reportedly fixed damage to the vehicle using his own money.]

He confirmed that the eleven vehicles were given to four divisions of the ministry; Four to the Crops Division, four for Livestock Division, one for Quarantine, one for the Head of the Project Coordination, which has seven employees, and one for the Small Business Enterprise Centre.

Original documents give a higher overall figure of US$16 million associated with S.A.C.E.P.

News of the project was first released in March, with S.A.C.E.P. aiming to help farming in Samoa become more commercially oriented and competitive, so that it can take advantage of emerging market opportunities both at home and abroad.

Launched in October 2012, the five-year project aims to support fruit and vegetable growers and livestock producers to improve their productivity and take greater advantage of market opportunities.

There are three components to the project.

The first component of the project is livestock production and marketing, according to information released with the project.

The objective of this component will be to encourage interested livestock producers to upgrade livestock, improve husbandry practices and stock management, make productivity enhancing on-farm investments, and improve the quality of meat sold in the local market.

The second component of the project is fruit and vegetable production and marketing.

The objective of this component will be to enable interested fruit and vegetable growers to have access to new, higher yielding varieties adopt improved technology and production techniques, make productivity enhancing on farm investments, and organize themselves to strengthen their presence in the market and meet the demands of local retailers and food service operators for year-round supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The third component of the project is institutional strengthening.

The objective of this component will be to improve the effectiveness of agricultural institutions (government and non-government) providing extension and adaptive research services to Samoan farmers.

Also covered is the ability of these same institutions working individually or in collaboration with each other to implement and monitor the project effectively.

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