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EPC Board Chairman responds to allegations of illegal Agreement

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 22 FEBRUARY 2023: The Chairman of the Electoral Power Corporation, Pepe Christian Fruean has responded to allegations by the Regulator that the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) he signed with the French company EDF Granite is illegal.

The Regulator, Lematua Fuatai Gisa Purcell in a letter to the Minister of the Office of the Regulator, Toelupe Poumulinuku Onesemo pointed out the illegality of the agreement between EDF/Granite and EPC, because they did not follow the Electricity Act 2010 which stipulates that only the Regulator can approve and issue a license for such a service.

The letter dated 15 December 2022 was also submitted to the Minister of the Electric Power Corporation, Olo Afoa Fiti Vaai when issues started emerging that questioned the legality of the agreement given to EDF/Granite.

The Regulator also recommended in the letter a review of the EPC Board.

Pepe in his response to Radio Polynesia said, he did follow all provisions provided under the EPC Act 1980, Electricity Act 2010, Public Bodies (Performances & Accountability Act 2021) hence putting his signature to the Agreement.

He is also disappointed that the Regulator did not contact or gave him a chance to discuss the matters in her letter instead of writing directly to the Minister.

“The principle of natural justice would allow a right of reply in this sort of situation and an opportunity to correct the factual inaccuracies that clearly exist,” said Pepe.

He further said that he is “giving further consideration to the letter including why it was made public without being first afforded any opportunity to respond to the Regulator’s very serious and damaging allegations.”

The Regulator however is sticking to her view when asked for a comment about the EPC Chairman’s response.

“If he knew the law, he would have brought the PPA for me to review and approve or not, also, they did not send an application for a Generation License as per the Act,” said the Regulator.

She also clarified that she was already in office as a Regulator when negotiations between the EDF/Granite and EPC started, but she was not consulted. She was also of the view taken by the former Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Finance, Leasiosiofa’asisina Oscar Malielegaoi who did not support the Agreement.

The Regulator was also against a proposed $150 million tala Government guarantee for the project.

Lematua said that when she heard about the search for the company’s “middleman” it was when she advised the Minister through letter back in December 2022.

The Regulator insists the Electricity Act 2010 is very clear but was not followed in this case.