URGENT QUESTIONS SUMMARY
Thursday, 23rd October 2014
1. Question 1 TO THE PRIME MINISTER:
“What are Government’s plans for the transportation fleet and other equipment that were used during the SIDS Conference?” (AFUALO WOOD UTI SALELE)
Prime Minister responded that Government had appointed a Working Committee comprised of Government Officials to review best options and report thereon to Cabinet. The options are: (i) hold on to the fleet and equipment as Samoa is also preparing to host other large events such as the Commonwealth Youth Games and other gatherings that will require the usage of these goods.
(ii) Working Committee will recommend a fair system of tendering certain vehicles at a later stage. Over 20 requests to purchase these goods have been received by Government.
2. Question 2 TO THE PRIME MINISTER:
“When will Government table a ‘Government Reply’ to the Officers of Parliament Committee Report on the Report of the Auditor General?” (Hon PALUSALUE Faapo II)
Prime Minister responded that this will be tabled in the next ensuing Session as all officials of Ministries implicated in the Report were involved in SIDS preparations and have had limited time to compile accurate detailed replies.
3. Question 3 TO THE MINISTER FOR EDUCATION:
“What is Government’s intentions with the proposed increase in salaries for teachers as it has been noted that some have migrated to American Samoa? When will the increase be implemented?” (AVEAU NIKOTEMO PALAMO)
Prime Minister clarified that Cabinet has prepared a report about some of these issues as many of the relevant Ministries did not properly prepare their reports; these have to be properly clarified for the Ministry of Finance to assess the practicality of proposed salary increases. The Government needs to assess what pay rise is “appropriate”, that is the cause of the delay – especially with the private sector having already raised concerns over the previous 40% salary increase. Issues such as this cannot be rushed. Government cannot dissuade people from migrating to other countries in search of higher salaries; that is their right. Regardless, the proper procedures must be followed after in-depth discussion and consideration.
The Minister for Education did not directly answer the question but instead sought clarification from the Speaker as to the procedure for Questions emphasising that Urgent Questions need to be delivered to the responsible Minister “at least a day” before the answer is made in Chambers. This has not been satisfied according to the Minister as he received his Questions at 12:30pm the day before and it is now only after 9:00am. A debate ensued between the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition as to “supplementary questions” at the Leader’s insistence that he is entitled to one to which the Speaker clarified that Supplementary Questions need also to be cleared by the Clerk first.
4. Question 4: (Ruled inadmissible by Mr Speaker for non compliance with Standing Order 60)
5. Question 5 TO THE MINISTER FOR WORKS, TRANSPORT & INFRASTRUCTURE:
“When will the Leone bridge damaged by Cyclone Evan be rebuilt as the funds have been allocated yet nothing has been done?” (LEVAOPOLO TALATONU)
Minister of Works responded that this issue does not warrant an urgent answer in the House and does not contain any urgent matter of public interest. Clarifications could have alternatively been sought from the relevant CEO and not any unauthorised personnel as it may distort the issue. Nevertheless he responded that the contract for the bridge has been signed and the plans are currently being drawn up. He reiterated the fact that the World Bank has provided a lot of the funding which have various attached requirements with which we must comply. The process is lengthy in order to secure the funds, but they must be adhered to; this is a 3 – 4 year job. He then gave examples of other major works funded by the World Bank currently underway such as on the West Coast (Samusu to Aleipata) and the four lanes at Vailoa (a 20 million+ contract). The reason why funds have been released in the past from the World Bank is because they have been properly managed and expended which is the precedence to be followed with the rebuilding of the said bridge.
The Prime Minister further responded and emphasised that overseas funding come with conditions and procedures that must be adhered to hence the delay with major infrastructural works.
6. Question 6 TO THE MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE & FISHERIES:
“What is the update with the $5million allocation for farmers affected by Cyclone Evans as farmers have been waiting 3 years for it?” (TAPUAI TOESE/Hon PALUSALUE Faapo II)
The Prime Minister and the Minister for Women Affairs raised points of order on why the Leader of Opposition is asking the question printed under the name of the Member for Salega as it breaches Standing Orders since the Member for Salega is present in Chambers. The Member for Salega took the floor and informed the Speaker that he had given the Leader of Opposition permission to speak on his behalf which is still a breach of the Orders but the Speaker made an exception and granted leave to the Leader of Opposition to ask the question on behalf of the Member.
The Minister for Agriculture responded that regarding the $5 million allocation for Farmers affected by Cyclone Evans, it is partially funded by the World Bank together with funding from Government. The process of recruiting the appropriate people to execute the Evans project was a lengthy one. The system that is being used for this project is an e-voucher system as opposed to directly handing out cash to farmers. There has never been an e-voucher system in Samoa so the IT requirements added to the lengthy process; particularly due to the fact that the system had to be installed in local companies. Once an assessment has been carried out and a farmer is deemed eligible then they are given a voucher which they may use to purchase building materials etc. from a participating building company such as Bluebird. The pilot programme began two months ago with 100 vouchers being processed in the rural areas. 200 more are underway and the process will continue until the $5 million has fully expended. In addition, the process for the SACEP Aid is the same as the one noted for the Evans Fund. There were various groups recruited to execute the project. A coordinator and staff of 12+ were recruited; this is another reason for the delay of the project. It should be noted that to be eligible for the 50% grant you must have 30% of your own equity; if you do not have the requisite 30% then you may apply for a small loan which must be paid back. So far, 50 farmers have finished and currently 200 more are underway. There have been some issues however with people applying for small loans to cover their 30% contribution who then used the funds for another purpose. This has meant that they have not been eligible for the 50% grant as they have been unable to produce the necessary (30% contribution) receipt. Part of the funding (4.9 million) has been utilised to acquire livestock such as sheep from Fiji (arrived last week) and approximately ST$297,000.00 being spent on cattle from Australia. Everything is in place system-wise and is running smoothly.
7. Question 7 TO THE MINISTER FOR HEALTH:
“Does Government intend to purchase a CT scanner for the National Hospital at Motootia as this is urgently needed by most patients?” (MOTUOPUAA AISOLI VAAI)
The Minister for Health responded that Government approved the signing of a MOU between the ACC Board and the Ministry of Health (July 2014) for ST1.5 million. The process included finding the appropriate specifications for the CT Scanner before venturing into the tender process. On the 15th September, 3 tenders were received with the result being decided on 16th September and the successful Tenderer given 19 days to procure the machine. The CT Scan should be in Samoa early January 2015.
8. Question 8 TO THE MINISTER FOR HEALTH: “What precautionary measures against Ebola has the Ministry implemented and is it true that some returning residents are suspected of carrying the virus?” (TOEOLESULUSULU CEDRIC SCHUSTER)
The Minister for Health responded that Ebola virus is unlikely to spread to our shores however, the Ministry has taken up precautionary measures in the event that it does. This includes measures for Biosecurity, equipment for an isolation facility, prevention and control training, health awareness and education, risk communication, border control, health declaration form for travellers to Samoa and public health surveillance.