Case of throwing out the baby and the bath water

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Dear Editor,

I write in response to your editorial titled “If P.M. Tuilaepa’s govt. picks on Police, they should do the same to all others in the public service.”

Mataafa you are wrong about this and the P.M.’s enthusiasm in this area is misplaced.

Basically there are two issues here, conflict of interest and disallowing a married couple to work in the same department or agency. 

According to your editorial Mr Mataafa, there is an implied one-on-one relationship between a married couple working in the same department and conflict of interest. This is based on fallacious logic.

A friend of mine who used to work in the Australian public service said that that public service has a code of conduct for its public servants which clearly articulates what constitutes conflict of interest. 

I looked this up and the code states that a conflict of interest occurs where there is a conflict between the public duty and personal interests of an employee that improperly influences the employee in the performance of his or her duties. 

The important question here and one which is implied by the P.M.’s statement is that being married and working in the same department leads to conflict of interest – NOT necessarily so. 

There are myriads of other factors in a public servant’s personal life, which can lead to him/her being improperly influenced in the execution of duties. A husband having his wife working in the police department will not result in him being unduly influenced to undertake something contrary to the police code of conduct.

Let me briefly cover other factors and examples which can lead to conflict of interest situations arising. A businessman contacts a Customs officer and suggests that his container be allowed in through the green lane. 

The Customs officer concerned personally supervises the processing of the container and it gets through with minimal customs duties being paid. The officer is given some fu’a mumu’s in appreciation of excellent services provided. This is a glaring example of conflict of interest and yet, the businessman and the customs officer are not married.

I have been led to believe that a number of police investigations in the past were discontinued because files had gone missing or witnesses not found, etc, etc. From a community perspective this one of the worst results in the police department’s image because people begin to lose faith in the one department which is supposedly the haven for the weak and the ordinary. 

Were these instances due to the existence of married couples in the police? No. It was more likely that outside influence was brought to bear on a police officer or police officers to improperly carry out their duties.

There are other people with greater influences on police officers which might land them in conflict of interest situations.

Of greater significance in this conflict of interest issue is the recent case where a contract was awarded to a minister’s brother’s firm. 

Why was this not a case of conflict of interest? 

The Minister excused himself from the tender evaluation process. Why can’t the same common sense approach be applied to married couples in the police department?

In the U.S. police departments where the commissioner previously worked, surely married couples were allowed to work together. 

Why is he then hell-bent on implementing this policy conjured up by the P.M. to solve problems in the police department? 

One can speculate that this ‘’scorched-earth’’ policy is a means by which to get rid of anybody connected with last year’s troubles at the department.

Implementation of this policy is a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.


Vai Autu 


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