Secretary suspended over alleged forgery

A Secretary to the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Works and Transport and Infrastructure (M.W.T.I.) has been suspended following allegations she forged official documents for personal gain.

The alleged forgery, understood to include a residence permit, is the subject of an ongoing investigation, the Minister for the M.W.T.I., Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, confirmed.

“I can confirm she’s been placed on suspension, while an internal investigation is being carried out over allegations of misconduct," he said, in an interview with the Samoa Observer.

The Secretary has been identified as Luana Palepua Kelsall. 

The Minister confirmed that he was not aware of the issue until this newspaper contacted him for a comment. 

A meeting was called following the receipt of inquiries. 

"I don’t know how many permits were [allegedly] forged, but all I know is that permits were [allegedly] forged," he said.

“The more permits she [allegedly] forged, the more money she took, but I don’t know how many permits.

“I was informed that the C.E.O. [Magele Hoe Viali] was overseas when this incident occurred."

The Minister explained permit fees vary depending on the cost of a project. 

“All I know there is a [standard] permit fee for a new residence and its $1,200,” he said.

Papali’i also reminded Government employees any such behaviour will not be tolerated. 

“This should serve as a warning to the government employees; the government will not tolerate any misconduct," said Papali’i.

“When government funds are misappropriated the consequences should be severe, especially when it comes to public funds. 

"The penalty for theft as a servant is hefty and that sends a message to government employees the government takes these matters seriously."

He said the Secretary has been placed on suspension and the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) will make a decision on whether to refer the matter to the Ministry of Police for criminal proceedings.

“The P.S.C.’s decision will also factor in the recommendation by the C.E.O. but the employment status of the secretary lies with the P.S.C. “Under the law I deal directly with the C.E.O. but the P.S.C. deals with the staff under the C.E.O.” 

The Minister said the C.E.O. should be the one responding to questions given this occurred under his watch. 

But emails, messages and phone calls to Magele first sent on Wednesday were not answered as of press time.  

Efforts to get comments from the Secretary were unsuccessful. 

Emails and messages to Ms. Kelsall did not receive a response.

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