The chairman of the Faatuatua i Le Atua Samoa ua Tasi party, also Minister of Agriculture Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt has spoken out to correct an allegatoin levelled against him by Human Rights Protection Party Leader, Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi.
In a press conference with local media on Monday this week, former Prime Minister Tuilaepa stated that the Gagaifomauga No3 district development committee’s head office was being built on Laaulialemalietoa’s land.
Tuilaepa alleged the land was being filled for the office building, and Laaulialemalietoa’s name was on the lease. He questioned who was benefiting from the monthly lease to be paid by the Committee to the property owners.
In response, the Minister of Agriculture and Member of Parliament for Gagaifomauga 3 said the accusations against him are untrue and without basis.
“The district office is on the central meeting place of the district,” said Laaulialemalietoa.
“The central meeting place (where the head office is located) belongs to all villages of the district, so the lease payments will benefit the entire district…
“This is just another false allegation against me,” said Laaulialemalietoa.
Earlier in the week on the EFKS television network, Laauli alleged Tuilaepa distributed the first $200k tranche of district development funds as cash payouts to the three villages of Lepa district.
Tuilaepa hit back to defend the allegations against him, stating that the only funds distributed, related to the lease of the district head office, where “it is only fair that all three villages within the Lepa district received a portion of the monthly property lease”.
Tuileapa then went on to question who was benefiting from some distrtict development committee head office leases, where the MPs land or buildings have been used.
“What we are doing is in accordance with instructions given to us by the government, and we do hope that all their reports of how the finances are being used by their Ministers and their MPs are also properly investigated and subject to audit,” said the opposition leader.
“Because what we have heard, there is much to be desired to what they have done.”
Tuilaaepa said the Lepa District Development Committee’s books are being overlooked by an accountant, and their financial reports have been prepared and ready for an external audit as required by the funding guidelines.
Unconvinced, Laaulialemalietoa says he will await the acquittal report from Tuilaepa’s district development committee, to see if the initial $200k tala fund has been properly used in accordance to guidelines set down by government.
In accordance with a pre-election promise, the FAST Government has tagged $1 million tala to each of Samoa’s 51 electoral constituencies.
In the 2021-2022 budget, an initial $200k tala was allocated to all 51 territorial constituencies for setting up District Development Committees by way of a head office, and to recruit three staff to coordinate and lead the development work.
The Minister for Community Development, Leota Laki Sio has set down procurement guidelines for the district development funds. For the 15-person committee that shall govern projects under the million tala fund, Government has dictated the composition of the committee.
Each district development committee comprising 15 members, is to be Chaired by the elected Member of Parliament. However, for elected MPs of the opposition HRPP party, the electoral constituency is to ensure the Vice Chair is a village matai who had supported FAST, or a FAST candidate who was not successful at the 2021 general election. The Secretary must also be a person who had openly supported FAST during the general election, and 6 more members of the Committee are to be FAST supproters.
The composition set down by Government policy ensures there are 8 FAST and 7 HRPP in each district development committee where HRPP MPs had been elected.