P.S.C. Chairman writes
1 March 2018
Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa
Editor in Chief
ARTICLE TITLED ‘Senior Govt. Officials face P.S.C charges’ IN THE SAMOA OBSERVER, THURSDAY, 28 FEBRUARY 2019 BY JOYETTER FEAGAIMAALII
We refer to the above matter and the article in the Samoa Observer yesterday, Thursday 28 February 2019 titled “Senior Govt. Officials face P.S.C charges” written by Joyetter Feagaimaalii.
We write to inform your newspaper to refrain from publishing further articles using confidential information disclosed to your reporter(s) by way of a breach of government rules and policies. It puts us in a position, where we have to raise grave concern over how your paper reported on the confidential information, namely the charge sheets.
The present investigation, as in all government matters, is governed by confidentiality. All public servants are required to keep confidence all information received in the course of their duties in the public service. This extends to include the Commission’s investigation into the staff members of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration (MJCA) and all information pertaining to it.
We understand from the article that you are now in possession of the Commission’s charge sheet for this matter. Your paper and your reporter are not parties to the investigation and therefore should not be in possession of the said information. As such, your paper possesses the documents in contravention of the confidentiality obligations of whoever you received those documents from.
As a result, it is open to the Commission now to investigate how sensitive and clearly confidential information concerning an on-going investigation, came to be in the possession of your paper and your reporter.
In addition, we raise grave concern over the nature in which the charge sheet was used in the article:
Firstly, the article did not qualify that the charge sheet is an internal Commission document and should not be confused with criminal charges. Without that qualification there is a high risk that the charge sheet could be misconstrued by your readers and members of the public to mean a criminal charge. This has grave implications on the reputations of the persons the subject of the investigations especially considering the investigation has yet to be completed.
Secondly, the article has greatly hindered the work of the Commission in carrying out its investigation and especially ensuring that fair and due process is observed and afforded to the persons the subject of the charge sheet. The charge sheet is a preliminary assessment by the Commission of the information received in its investigation; and is conveyed to the person the subject of the investigation for his or her response. The article has now put added unwarranted public opinion pressures on the persons subject of the investigation when the investigation is still on-going;
Thirdly, the investigation of the Commission and its finding are as matter of procedure transferred to Police for further investigation to consider whether criminal charges are to be laid. Publishing the article in the manner that you have without the proper qualifications and lack of sensitivity for the persons involved which may hinder and obstruct criminal investigation and prosecution (if any) of these matters.
For the reasons above, we urge your paper to refrain from publishing confidential information concerning the Commission’s investigation into the MJCA until such time the investigation is completed and Commission has made a determination.
Feel free to send any question to us, as the appropriate alternative to publishing confidential information, and we will endeavour within the confines of the applicable laws, to issue releases and comments, when possible.
Aiono Mose Pouvi Sua