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Government’s Procurement Process Upstaged by Housing Corp’s $2.6m asset

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 25 MAY 2023: By-passing the Government’s procurement process to secure the land and the Samoa Housing Corporation’s new building in central Apia has somehow upstaged the Governments procurement process and implying the need for review and changes.

The $2.6 million tala land and building located at Matafele, opposite the old SHC building was officially opened this morning.

According to the Minister of the Samoa Housing Corporation, Leatinu’u Wayne So’oialo, it was not easy to sway the Cabinet to approve the purchase because SHC by-passed the protocols and processes.

“The SHC did not follow the normal Government procurement process regarding large investments,” said Leatinu’u during the opening of the new premises this morning.

“But despite Cabinets queries, they however approved the purchase which now makes the Samoa Housing the first government Corporation to own its own land and building.”

And in the process, SHC saved $0.5 million tala from the original cost of the work which was $2.2m.

The total cost of the property SHC purchased was $2.6m and the intended cost of the building including all materials came to $2.2m. However, the final cost of the building came down to $1.5m.

It was something that Leatinuu commended the SHC Board and Management that despite not following the processes, they had the insight to push the project through which not only saved a substantial amount of money but secured a property of their own.

SCH ribbon cutting
SCH ribbon cutting

The Minister for Agriculture & Fisheries, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao cutting the ribbon to open SHC’s new offices.

HRPP wanted a 7 storey building at $60m tala
The Chairman of the SHC Board Tuilaepa Eti Faaolotoi said the process is long and SHC had secured a great deal with the owners of the land and house.

“We informed the Minister that we would not get a better offer like the $2.6 m we secured and we have to take it,” said Tuilaepa.

The Corporation has been searching for an appropriate space for 18 years and they were not going to miss a good opportunity such as the one presented to them.

Not wanting to lose the deal with the land owners, the Board and Management decided to move fast and bypass all processes and handed everything to Leatinu’u to be presented to Cabinet.

According to Tuilaepa, the previous HRPP Government offered SHC the RSA building and land next to the Nelson Memorial Library for $60 million to build a 7 storey building which will be owned by SHC.

“The Board and SHC management considered the offer and declined, but the Government was ready to build a 7 storey building,” said Tuilaepa.

The Chairman emphasized that SHC did not need a 7 storey building to operate from and their priority was to safeguard their client’s assets and money and not spent on such an expensive project such as a seven storey building.

SHC Chaiman & CEO
SHC Chaiman & CEO

Samoa Housing Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Sautiamaivasa Titimaea Tiotio & Board Chairman Tuilaepa Eti Faaolotoi.

The SHC was established after cyclone Ofa in 1990 to cater for low income families and originally used office space in other Government Ministries to operate from.

In 2005, it moved to the Government Building because there was no money and later to the current office behind the ANZ Bank built on a $800,000 loan from the Government.

The Board and Management under the leadership of Matautia Rula Levi then decided to look for space as the Corporation was growing in a very small office.

Tuilaepa acknowledged Leatinu’u for his persistence and pushing for Cabinet’s approval, the former SHC Chief Executive Officer Matautia Rula Levi, former Cabinet Minister Lautafi Purcell, UTOS, SNPF and all SHC clients and members.

Tuilaepa has served as the SHC Chairman for 18 years and his contract ends in July.

“Our dream was to see SHC operating from a bigger and healthy environment, and I’m happy to see our dream becoming a reality today,” said Tuilaepa.

He said already SHC has already received expressions of interest to rent their old office which will generate further revenue for the corporation.

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao was given the honours to cut the ribbon to officially open the Samoa Housing Corporation’s $2.6m tala headquarters and property.

SHC staff
SHC staff

Some of the Samoa Housing Corporation staff.