Senior Govt. officials face P.S.C. charges

Two Assistant Chief Executive Officers of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration (M.J.C.A.) face Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) charges in relation to an Inquiry carried out by the Commission into the Ministry.

Copies of the Charge Sheets signed by Commission Delegate, Maiavatele Timothy Fesiili, identify the Assistant Chief Executive Officers as Ve’ataulia Fa’atasi Puleiata and Galuo Serah Skelton. 

The sheets, which Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is copied, highlight the allegations against the two A.C.E.O's.

The investigation looked into the security and release of Court files from the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, internal policies and procedures on managing the use and access of Government vehicles and assessment during daily operations, and to determine any breaches of public service values, principles and code of conduct in the discharge of official duties by any person appointed under the Act. 

The P.S.C. Chairman, Aiono Mose Su’a, told the Samoa Observer yesterday that the investigation is in progress, but declined to comment further on the matter. 

Galuo Skelton is charged with unlawfully obtaining Government funds of up to $310,000 allegedly for personal use and theft as a servant.

Ve’ataulia faces charges of allegedly misusing Ministry vehicles and staff for his wife’s catering business, and driving a government vehicle without a valid driver’s license. 

Repeated attempts by this newspaper to get comments from Galuo and Ve’ataulia in relation to the charges have been unsuccessful. 

The Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u, said he wasn’t aware of the charges against the two A.C.E.Os, when he was contacted and asked to comment. 

 

THE P.S.C. CHARGES Galuo Serah Skelton 

The A.C.E.O. for Corporate Service is facing two charges of unlawfully obtaining government funds of up to $310,000 allegedly for personal use. 

According to the charge sheet dated February 12, 2019 from 2015 to 2018, Skelton is accused of misusing her position as A.C.E.O. to unlawfully acquire funds from three different accounts that was entrusted to her. The accounts in question are the Civil Trust Account, Cashier Account and the Petty Cash.

“From 2015 to 2018 you used your authority as an A.C.E.O. and a signatory to the Civil Trust Account to unlawfully sign-off cheques that were partially or wholly for yourself. At no point in time did the Ministry authorize you to make any payments for such purposes.” 

According to the charge sheet, the ways and means the M.J.C.A. fund was acquired were “unlawful, intentional and deceptive”. 

The charge sheet alleges that Skelton would sign and approve multiple cheques to her subordinate. The subordinate would then take the cheques to the bank and cash it on Skelton’s behalf, stated the P.S.C. charge sheet. 

It’s alleged that on September 6, 2018 the Ministry of Finance informed the M.J.C.A. there were cheques made to Skelton’s subordinate from financial years 2016, 2017 and 2018 to the sum of $309,696.53. 

On February 6, 2019 the charge sheet stated that Skelton allegedly admitted to taking of unauthorized funds from the Civil Trust Account but denied owing anything over $20,000. 

Furthermore, the charge sheet states that from 2015 to 2018 Skelton allegedly “borrowed” funds from the cashiers for personal use on the weekly basis. “And again there was no record or recollection of how much was borrowed from the cashier.” 

The P.S.C. alleges that from 2015 to 2018, Skelton allegedly took money from the petty cash for personal use unlawfully once a week. 

“At no time did the Ministry authorize you to take money from the petty cash for your personal use, and again there is no record or recollection of how much was borrowed from the petty cash.” 

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Furthermore, the P.S.C. claims that funding from the Civil Trust Account to the cashier and petty cash was to hide the fact that money had been unlawfully taken from those accounts. 

“You were the immediate manager responsible for managing and reconciling the Civil Trust Account, you knowingly delayed the reconciliation of the Civil Trust Accounts from 2016 to 2018 to avoid getting caught by the Ministry, Audit and M.O.F.,” says the P.S.C. charge sheet. 

It’s alleged that Skelton accuses her subordinate “was lending funds from the said account to other employees within the Ministry albeit small.” 

Also the charge sheet says Skeleton allegedly admitted to “authorizing her subordinate to take money for herself.” 

The second charge against Skelton is failing to act with honesty by committing theft as a public service and attempting to hide evidence to avoid getting caught. 

“At no point did the Ministry consent or authorize you to borrow take or pay yourself funds from the said accounts whatsoever. 

“On the February 6, 2019 you admitted to the Commission that you took funds from the said accounts but had no record or recollection as to the total amount. You also admitted that you still owe a large sum of money to the Ministry. 

“On several occasions the Civil Trust Account was used to replenish the cashier and the petty cash funds that you had borrowed to avoid getting caught. 

As such, you had no intention to repay the Ministry in full and thus permanently depriving the Ministry if the said funds,” stated the charge sheet. 

 

VE’ATAULIA FA’ATASI PULEIATA 

The P.S.C. has filed four charges against the A.C.E.O. of Civil and Criminal Courts. The first charge stems from allegations that Ve’ataulia had failed to act with integrity and misused his authority and obtained a benefit for him. 

The P.S.C. alleges the A.C.E.O. “misused Ministry vehicles and staff” for the personal benefit of his wife’s catering business.

It’s alleged that Ve’ataulia instructed M.J.C.A. staff members to deliver food orders on behalf of his wife’s catering business using the M.J.C.A. van during working hours. 

“It is common knowledge at the Ministry that you and your wife operate a catering business from your place of residence in Magiagi. The catering caters for most of the Ministry’s parole meetings and prisoners on remand at the Mulinu’u Court house,” stated the P.S.C. sheet. 

Furthermore, the P.S.C. alleges that in June 2017 M.J.C.A. staff was instructed to deliver 100 plates from the catering in Magiagi to a wedding in Si’usega. And the staff were working overtime for the Ministry. 

“At no time you were authorized to use the Ministry resources (staff and vehicles) to operate a private business –the catering.” 

Also the P.S.C. noted that between 2017-2018 directives was given to a staff member to carry out grocery shopping for the catering business on several occasions. 

The P.S.C. accused the A.C.E.O. of authorising his wife to drive an M.J.C.A. vehicle without any approval from the Ministry.

The second charge against Ve’ataulia is for driving the M.J.C.A. vehicle without a valid driver’s license.

“As the A.C.E.O. of the Civil and Criminal Courts Division at the Ministry which, among other things discharges justice, you ought to have known that operating a vehicle on the road without a valid driver’s license is unlawful,” says the P.S.C. charge sheet. 

The third P.S.C. charge is the failing to comply with all lawful and reasonable directions given to persons who have the authority to give those directions. 

“Pursuant to part l.13(1) & (2) of the treasury instructions, the finance secretary issued instructions to all drivers of government vehicles to observe all traffic regulations.” The final charge alleges that Ve’ataulia failed to uphold the good reputation of the Public service. 

“You failed to observe all laws of Samoa and lawful instructions that applied to you and in doing so, you have brought the reputation of the public service and the M.J.C.A. into disrepute,” says the P.S.C. charges. 

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