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High staff turnover affecting Law Reform Commission

High staff turnover continues to affect the operations of the Samoa Law Reform Commission (SLRC).

The Commission’s inability to offer staff attractive remuneration packages has been blamed for the high turnover, and has been challenge since its establishment in 2008. 

This challenge was highlighted by the Commission in their annual report for the year 2017-2018. 

Other challenges faced by the Commission include slow career progression and individual job satisfaction, as most projects undertaken by the Commission can take up to two years or more, as well as the lack of understanding of its functions. 

According to the annual report, the Commission’s mandate prompts it to receive a reference from the Prime Minister, Attorney General and or Cabinet at any given time. 

These references may be classified “urgent” by Cabinet – and the Commission is required to set aside current ongoing projects and scheduled timelines for those projects – and work towards meeting the urgent terms of the reference. 

According to the annual report, if a “reference” is received in the middle of the financial year, the Commission cannot request for more funding from the Government. And when funding for the project is reallocated from an existing account, the Commission cannot show this in its key performance indicators. 

“These situations occur often and can be very exasperating for the Commission when ‘urgent’ projects (i.e. Pule Matai Sa’o) are received in the middle of the financial year with instructions to be completed before the end of the very same financial yea. Yet the office resources and human resources spent cannot be reflected in the key performance Indicators nor documented officially,” stated the annual report. 

The inability of the Commission to reflect the work against its key performance indicators has often put it at odds with the Parliamentary Committees. 

“This then does not accurately reflect the work of the Commission against the KPIs and the Commission is put in an unfortunate position, especially at the mercy of the Parliamentary Committees performing government ‘oversight’ duties, when called upon to respond to the Commission’s use of resources and performance in a given year."

“Even with the increase in public awareness, the Commission feels there is still more that can be done to increase public awareness – so as to increase public inclusion and participation in the process of law reform.” 

Furthermore, the annual report stated that public consultation is considered the “cornerstone” of law reform. 

“It is the most significant stage in the law reform process upon which sound recommended reforms to law are based. It is also what makes ‘law reform’ services unique from other legal advises provided to government in developing ‘suitable and relevant laws’ for the country."

“Unfortunately, each year Government reduces the Commission’s (and other ministries/organization) budget." 

This has limited the number of public consultations the Commission can host as well as other workshops, stakeholder consultations and activities that is critical to law maintenance and attaining the Commission’s key performance indicators. 

The limited budget does not also assist with supplying the relevant internet and legal databases needed for speedy and sound legal research,” added the annual report. 

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