Transfer of Traffic Officers to Police hit snag

The Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.) has not transferred about 40 Traffic Officers to the Ministry of Police yet.

Last week, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi announced a major reshuffling of Cabinet portfolios, which included giving the powers to enforce traffic laws back to the Police. It means Traffic Officers recruited and trained by the L.T.A. will have to move to the Police. 

But the Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure, Papali'i Niko Lee Hang, told the Samoa Observer in an interview in his office that the Cabinet directive cannot be effected without amendments being made to the Land Transport Authority Act 2007.

He said there are issues that must be addressed before the staff transfer is done. These include the salaries and the consideration of whether the Police has the budget to cater for 40 Traffic Officers.

“The ability to control traffic is now the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Police. But we can’t transfer over the traffic officers, until we can ascertain the changes to their wages, if any," Papali'i said. 

“I know the F.K. (Cabinet directive) was effective on Monday, (28 April, 2019). But we have to be fair to them, we must wait until the amendments are made to the L.T.A. Act 2007. 

"We don’t want to transfer them without due process, in case this fires back. We have to know whether the officers should be transferred over to police with the budget to pay salaries, which is what I am hoping for,” he said.

One option is for the Traffic Officers to continue to get paid until the end of the current financial year – with the Police taking over after that.

Papali'i said it's an option he supports.

“I want them to still collect their current salaries until the end of the current financial year, and then the Police can make the changes, they want – after all the changes was done abruptly."

The changes – as directed by Cabinet – will also affect the Assistant C.E.O. (Traffic division), with the Minister indicating that he could be transferred to another division within the organisation.

“He’s still under contract and his salary should remain until after the transition period, then we will look at transferring him into another division with the L.T.A. But that is still in the air until we finalize the changes.” 

Parking meters, which is an L.T.A. project and were set up in selected locations in downtown Apia last year, will also be handed over to the Police.

Papali’i indicated that the ownership of the parking meters will also not be handed over immediately, as it is one of the authority's new investments. 

Speaking of the changes and its impact, the Minister added that it was not surprising.

“It’s been 12 years since the L.T.A. was established and one of its core functions is the registration, traffic control and licensing of vehicles. The responsibilities of the L.T.A. officers are very limited to minor offenses. 

“They issue citations which results in instant fines that have to be paid within 24 hours, and if they don’t pay they’ll appear in court. Which was a positive move, as we were getting instant revenue,” he added.

The licensing and registration of motor vehicles in Samoa – which is a core function of the L.T.A. – will also be affected.

“That is how I understand the F.K., because it’s not practical to have one Ministry oversee a portion of the traffic functions, and the other Ministry manages the other division. If the transfer has to do with traffic, we may as well transfer all the traffic mandates to the Police, while the L.T.A. can focus on the development of the road projects."

The Minister hopes the motor vehicle registration and licensing functions are not taken away from L.T.A. as it is the main source of revenue for the organisation. 

“This is the main revenue source for the L.T.A. as we don’t have enough monies from the budget for the road projects and the registration helps,” he added.

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