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Budget Office refuses to pay plant nursery for EOB plants

Cites sole-sourcing, lack of contract, no biz license
joy@samoanews.com

“There was no signed contract, Procurement’s bidding process was circumvented and the plant nursery does not hold a business license to be conducting business with the Administrative Services Department” were among the reasons the Budget Office cited for rejecting the third invoice of $600 to pay for the plants that are in the lobby of the AP Lutali Executive Office Building.
 
Budget Director Katherine Aigamaua Saelua declined to comment on the matter, however Samoa News obtained a copy of the third invoice of $600 which was returned to Administrative Services Director Malemo Tausaga with specific instructions that it must be re-submitted with a signed contract, after it has followed Procurement’s bidding process — and the plant nursery must have a valid business license.
 
Calls to the Plant Nursery owner (who’s an official with Treasury) were not returned as of press time, and Samoa News understands that the first two invoices that total $1,200 for the months of September and October 2013 have already been paid.
 
According to the invoice, which was leaked to Samoa News, an official with the Department of Treasury owns the plant nursery. The name this person uses on the invoice is “Levi Reese” and the invoice is for “plant rental”.
 
In response to Samoa News queries, Administrative Services Director Malemo has denied circumventing Procurement’s bidding process for the plants, noting that he can sole source to anyone whom he feels has the best quality plants, he told Samoa News.
 
He confirmed that the third invoice was denied and said that he’s currently sending off a letter to the Procurement office sole sourcing the contract to the current plant nursery saying that he “looks at the quality of the plants.”
 
“I have the authority as Director to sole source these contracts; it's not over $10,000 and I don’t have to go through the Procurement’s bidding process,” he told Samoa News yesterday.
 
Asked if these were the only plants that he looked at for the EOB, Malemo said yes. He also confirmed that the other two invoices have already been paid and was puzzled as to why the third one was returned.
 
Others have claimed that Malemo should be looking for the lowest bidder because the current plant nursery has a conflict of interest with the Director, but he has denied this allegation. Malemo made it clear that he has no personal relation nor is he related to the plant nursery and there’s no conflict of interest. He said he has chosen the one with the “best quality plants/ flowers.”
 
The issue came to light when other plant and flower nurseries asked how they couls qualify to have their plants rented to decorate the EOB.
 
One woman told Samoa News that although "these may be petty issues to others, it's not so little to me, because this is what my family lives off of, and I hope it’ll be done the right way and it must be up for bidding.”

These plants are among the 30 plants at the AP Lutali Executive Office Building that cost the American Samoa Government $600 monthly. [Photo: JL]


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