Cabinet gave okay for Board Chairman dual roles, Chief Executive explains

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Public Enterprises (M.P.E.), Elita To’oala, says the dual roles of the Chairman of the Samoa Airways Board, Muagututia Lafaele Ngau Chun, was “granted” by Cabinet.

The recently appointed Chairman of the national airline is also a Board member of the Samoa International Finance Authority (S.I.F.A.), which has raised questions about Government policies regarding Board members.

Asked for an explanation, Ms. Tooala said before Muagututia was appointed as the Samoa Airways Chairman, he was already on the S.I.F.A. Board.

“When he was transferred to the Board of Samoa Airways, Cabinet granted him a continuance on the S.I.F.A. Board of five months to enable him to complete a number of projects that he was working on for S.I.F.A,” Ms. To’oala said.

 Muagututia was contacted for a comment. He insisted that questions be emailed so he could provide a response. This was done but at press time, he had not responded.

Asked how the Board Members of Samoa Airways were appointed, Ms. Tooala made reference to the Public Bodies Act 2001 that provides for an Independent Selection Committee (I.S.C.) to oversee the recruitment and selection process for Board Directors.

 “The I.S.C. keeps a database of all those who have submitted an application,” she explained.

 “Sometimes vacancies occur on Boards that are unexpected. When there is need to fill an unexpected vacancy, suitable candidates are identified from this database for Cabinet’s consideration.”

The C.E.O. was also asked about criticisms that decisions made by Boards are often overturned by Cabinet.

The recent scenario where the S.I.F.A. Board recommended to Cabinet to reappoint the authority’s C.E.O., To’oto’ooleaava Dr. Fanaafi Aiono – Le Tagaloa, was put to the C.E.O as an example.

But Ms. Tooala said Cabinet makes its decision to align with “national interest.”

 “Sometimes decisions are made by Boards that are not aligned to the current interest of government,” she said. “Where that happens it is the prerogative of Cabinet to re-align that decision with that national interest.”

She added that the recruitment and selection of Public Body C.E.Os is one of the primary responsibilities of the Board.

However, the re-appointment for S.I.F.A. C.E.O. rests with Cabinet, not the Board.

 “The Board oversees the process and makes a recommendation to Cabinet,” she said.

 “According to the S.I.F.A. Act 2005 section 10 (1) makes it specifically clear that it is Cabinet that appoints the S.I.F.A. C.E.O.

 “The S.I.F.A Board is responsible for overseeing the recruitment and selection process and making a recommendation to Cabinet. The decision to reappoint he C.E.O. is a Cabinet decision and not the S.I.F.A. Board.”

Ms. Tooala also pointed out that role of the Board is to make sure the organisation is well managed; and its finances are in order.

The Board is also responsible for “providing an efficient and quality service that is expected of it by the community and that government’s interest as the major shareholder is protected.

“The Board provides the strategic leadership necessary to ensure public bodies meet their performance expectations both those that are legislated and those that are policy driven. One of the most crucial obligations the Board has is to protect Government’s interest.”

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