Associate Ministers are entitled to benefits of office under the caretaker government.
This was confirmed by the Assistant Attorney General, Muriel Lui, in response to questions from the Samoa Observer.
Referring to the Parliamentary Under Secretaries Act 1988, she said the law “provides that an Associate Minister is entitled to salaries, allowances and other benefits as determined under the Remuneration Tribunal Act 20032.”
Ms. Lui said the Parliamentary Under-Secretaries Act states that an Associate Minister who is in office on the date of dissolution is not taken to have vacated his office as an Associate Minister.
“Therefore, like Cabinet Ministers, Associate Ministers continue in their office after dissolution and therefore continue to receive their salaries including other benefits such as the use of vehicles allocated to them,” said the Assistant Attorney General.
“They are paid their salaries and allowances/benefits up to the 7th day of the first meeting of Parliament following a dissolution or up to the date the P.M resigns before the 7th day.”
Ms. Lui’s opinion was sought as the race for aspiring and incumbent Members of Parliament to secure seats at Tiafau heats up.
Since Parliament was dissolved, the affairs of the country are now being run by the caretaker government led by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, and his Cabinet Ministers.
That includes more than twenty Associate Ministers who are also apparently part of the “caretaker government.”
This means they are still entitled to the use of government vehicles and all the other perks.
Asked to explain this, Caretaker Speaker of Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao said there was an amendment done to the law to allow this.
What that amendment is, La’auli could not say.
He referred questions to the Prime Minister.
“As for me and the Deputy Speaker (Agafili Patisela Eteuati), we are covered under standing orders in case of emergency such as hurricanes,” he explained.
As for the Associate Minister, La’auli said “it’s a policy regulation but (it would be best to) ask the Prime Minister.”
Approached during the H.R.P.P's meeting with candidates last week, Tuilaepa said government’s work couldn’t be stopped.
“Our work is still continuing and Associate Ministers are right hands for Ministers.”
Pressed to point out which legislation or regulation such policy is under, Tuilaepa referred queries to the Attorney General.
In addressing H.R.P.P. candidates last week though, Tuilaepa said the law allows the Speaker and Deputy Speaker to remain as caretakers in case an emergency assembly needs to be called.
The same applies to Cabinet Ministers.
“A Minister is a Minister whether you are sitting in Cabinet or not,” said Tuilaepa.
“Associate Ministers exist to assist the Ministers. These positions are very crucial and that is why you see Associate Ministers all the time being very busy.”
Tuilaepa added that projects to improve the lives of people cannot wait for the Election. He referred to the work being done to improve hospitals, schools and the infrastructure.
The concept of “caretaker government” recognizes that, after the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly, the business of government must continue.
What a caretaker government can or cannot do is generally governed by what is normally referred to and recognized as “caretaker conventions”.
Caretaker conventions normally impose certain guidelines on the conduct of government, e.g. cease making major policy decisions unless urgent or cease making significant appointments. These are conventions only and are based on evolving practice rather than legislation.
The current caretaker government also follows applicable conventions.