Legal action broached over P.S.C. investigation

A businessman says he is prepared to bring legal action against the Public Service Commission to force it to reveal the findings of an investigation into allegations of misconduct leveled at a senior Government official. 

Commercial farmer and businessman, Papali’i Panoa Tavita, first made allegations of a boardroom altercation with the Assistant Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F.), Lupeomanu Pelenato Fonoti, in August last year. 

He simultaneously filed a criminal complaint and a complaint with the Commission, the oversight body ultimately responsible for Ministries' employees. 

In an interview with the Samoa Observer this week, Papali’i questioned the time the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) had taken to investigate the matter and said he was prepared to initiate a civil suit. 

“I am seeking answers as to whether any disciplinary action has been taken and if so, what is it. I have every right to know,” he said.

Papali'i alleged he inquired about the absence of printed materials during an M.A.F. Pesticide Technical Committee Meeting and, during the course of a subsequent altercation, was punched by Lupeomanu.

Lupeomanu strenuously denied the allegation. He was arrested and charged later the same month and released on bail while his case remains before the District Court. 

Papali'i, who is the former head of the Samoa National Provident Fund, stressed the issue with the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) was entirely separate from the criminal matter. 

He last month wrote to the Chairman of the (P.S.C.), Aiono Mose Sua, formally requesting an update on the status of its investigation into the alleged incident. 

“It is about 4-5 [months] since the incident occurred but your office has yet to inform me of your decision about disciplinary action against this public servant’s manners and [alleged] misconduct which should be covered under his contract as an Assistant C.E.O. of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries," he said in a letter dated December 9, 2019.  

“The incident occurred in August, 2019 which followed with an investigation carried out by some selected officials from your office which I presumed they had thoroughly interviewed members of the Pesticide Technical Committee who were present at the time."

The meeting in question was presided over by the M.A.F.'s Chief Executive Officer, Tilafono David Hunter, and held at the Quarantine Office in Matautu. 

In his December letter, Papali’i noted that he had himself been interviewed as part of the investigation before intimating that he was prepared to take the matter further.

“Would you be kind enough to advise me on this before I take further actions which may include your office as the employer of the concerned officer,” concluded Papali’i. 

The Samoa Observer sent emails to all members of the P.S.C. Aiono, Auelua Samuelu Enair and Lauano Vaosa Epa for comments, to date there has been no response.

Aiono was also approached for comment. He referred the matter to Auelua and Lauano for response. 

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