Public deserve answers over Clerk of Parliament’s absence

The secrecy surrounding what has become of the woman holding the all-important position of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly is unnecessary. 

This is especially so for Parliament, an institution that should be guided by the principles of transparency, accountability and good governance. 

In other words, Members of Parliament, especially the Speaker of Parliament, are duty bound to be accountable and transparent with members of the public in their dealings.

For the uninitiated, questions have been raised on the whereabouts of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Sefuiva Charlene Malele. Interest was heightened during the last Parliamentary session when her absence was clearly noticeable.

Sitting in on her behalf was Deputy Clerk, Leatisa Uitime Tala.

Questions about Sefuiva, given the fact she is still the Clerk of Parliament until we are told otherwise, are valid. This is especially for such a high profile position, which means it is a legitimate matter of public interest.

Keep in mind that last year, the Audit Office investigated an official complaint filed by a Parliamentary driver on allegations of misappropriation of Government funding, human resources issues and alleged abuse of government properties.

The complaint was lodged by the driver to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, whose portfolio also covers the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly (O.C.L.A.).

In August last year, Vaipou Fetuliai Lagaaia, of the Audit Office, told the Samoa Observer that the “results of our audit” had been submitted to “the relevant authorities which is the Honorable Speaker of Parliament and also to the Hon. Prime Minister as he is the responsible Minister for the O.C.L.A.”

He added: “We respect your interest in publishing our audit findings but we kindly advise that you wait for the report to be tabled in Parliament pursuant to Standing Order and section 42 of the Audit Act 2013 before it can become a public document.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this was on the 29th of August 2018. 

Today is the 2nd of February 2019 yet nobody seems to know what is going on – or at least be willing to tell the public the truth. 

All we know is that Sefuiva did not occupy her chair as the Clerk when she should have last week. 

So what is going on? Is she still being investigated? Is she on leave? Has she been suspended? Has she been fired? Or what?

These are simple questions. They are not hard and yet members of the public continue to be kept in the dark. 

Why is this necessary?  

Repeated attempts to get a comment from Sefuiva have been unsuccessful so far. The Sergeant at Arms for Parliament, Sergeant Setima, told the Samoa Observer that the official vehicle that Sefuiva used has been returned to the office.

He explained that in August 2018, Sefuiva returned to work after taking leave. However, she was placed on leave again not long after, and has not returned since.

“Whether she is coming back to work or not I do not know. However, the only person who can give an official comment is the Speaker,” he said.

 Approached for a comment after Parliament on Monday, Speaker of Parliament, Tole’afoa Fa’afisi said: “I don’t have time, I have other obligations.” 

When he was approached again the next day, he reiterated: “Oh no, I am very busy, please speak to the Sergeant (at Arms for Parliament) but I don’t have time for anything right now.”

Really? Transparency and accountability? Good governance? 

How long does it take to give an update? 

Well now that Parliament is not sitting for another couple of months, perhaps the Speaker of Parliament should make some time to sit down and tell us what is going on. 

Sefuiva was not a cleaner or a tea lady in just any Government Ministry, she held the highly regarded position of Clerk of the Office of the Legislative Assembly of the independent state of Samoa. 

What has happened to her, the public deserves to know. The truth.

Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!

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