P.M. orders Prison probe

By Joyetter Luamanu ,

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Samoa Prison

Samoa Prison

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has ordered the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate serious allegations made against certain members of the management of the Samoa Prisons and Corrections Services (S.P.C.S.).

The order is made in a letter to the Ombudsman signed by the Prime Minister, dated 27 September 2017. 

A copy of the letter has been obtained by the Samoa Observer. 

The complainant is Andrew S. Chong, a former employee of S.P.C.S, whose complaint targets the decisions made at the top level. 

Mr. Chong’s grievances are spelled out in a three-page letter to the Prime Minister, which prompted the order for an investigation. 

The complaint letter, dated 4 September 2017, was attached with Tuilaepa’s letter to the Ombudsman. 

Mr. Chong argues that the grounds for his termination were unfounded and called on the Prime Minister to investigate the matter. 

Highlighted in the three-page letter were allegations of marital affairs among the staff members.

He also pointed to the alleged conflict of interest between the Associate Minister So’oalo Mene and his wife who works as the Acting Assistant C.E.O. Levao Rosa Mene there.

The letter makes allegations against the Minister's conduct. 

But that’s not all.

Mr. Chong also accused senior management of hiring family members to do work at the prison.

He also claimed that a vehicle, licensed S.P.C.S. 09 was involved in a serious crash yet there was no disciplinary action taken against the driver.

There are further allegations that prisoners are used by senior staff members to do work and their homes, including a house at Falelauniu.

The Samoa Observer reached out to the Acting A.C.E.O for a comment.

However, efforts have been unsuccessful as of press time. 

The Minister of Prisons and Corrections, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, is currently in New York for a meeting.

Last month, the Minister of Prisons, Tialavea downplayed concerns about a conflict of interest in having the wife of his Associate Minister, So’oalo Mene, as an Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Prisons and Correction Services (M.P.C.S.).

“What conflict of interest?” Tialavea responded to a question from the Samoa Observer about the relationship between the Associate Minister and the A.C.E.O, Levao Rosa So’oalo.

“Levao had been an Assistant C.E.O. before me and my Associate Minister was appointed to the Prisons,” said the Minister.

“A conflict of interest arises in the workplace when an employee has competing interests or loyalties that either are or potentially or can be, at odds with each other. In this case that does not happen. So’oalo is one of the few people I trust with my life and his management skills are why I depend on him.”

 And according to Tialavea, So’oalo suits his position. 

“So I will take on the criticism but I stand my ground with the decision I made for So’oalo to remain as my Associate Minister.”

Tialavea said the perceived conflict was not their fault.

“We were appointed to the Ministry of Revenue in March and in June, the Prisons and Correction Services was added to our profile. 

“At that time, So’oalo the honest person that he is, told me that he does not feel right about being the Associate Minister for the Prison where his wife works. 

“But I told him that his expertise and assistance is needed at the Prisons, but this is So’oalo, an honest man and I couldn’t have got this far in fixing the problems with the Prisons without him by my side.” 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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