Cabinet suspends Regulator

Cabinet has suspended the Regulator, Lefaoali’i Unutoa Auelua-Fonoti, amid an ongoing investigation into a complaint by her former secretary alleging she “abused” the powers of her office. 

The Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa'I, told the Samoa Observer that Cabinet convened yesterday afternoon to vote on a recommendation to suspend the Regulator while investigations continued. 

“The suspension [of the Regulator] gives way to the P.S.C. (Public Service Commission) to carry out their investigation. There were numerous concerns by members of the public over this matter, but this is the P.S.C. process,” the Minister said. 

“I want to emphasise that the suspension does not mean the Regulator is guilty.” 

The suspension takes effect with full pay. 

The complaint was lodged by the Regulator’s secretary, Fialupe Fuimaono Uelese, in a seven page letter written in Samoan and includes allegations of mistreatment and abuse. 

The complaint was officially filed with the P.S.C. on May 15 last year. 

Earlier this month, the P.S.C. informed the Regulator it had formally initiated disciplinary proceedings against her. 

The Commission decided to proceed with disciplinary procedures on February 12. 

In the letter advising her of the commencement of disciplinary proceedings, she was also warned the Commission was considering suspending her from employment. 

The letter was signed by Commission member, Lauano Vaosa Epa.

"You have [seven] days to provide written submissions to the issue of suspension,” Lauano wrote. 

Emailed questions to the Regulator were not immediately responded to on Friday afternoon.

But as has been reported earlier, Lefaoali’i vehemently denies the allegations. 

“I strongly deny the allegations and other false accusations made by the secretary,” she said in an email from the Samoa Observer.

Minister Afamasaga said the Cabinet had approved a P.S.C. paper pertaining to the suspension. 

“She’s suspended with pay while the P.S.C. carries out the [an] investigation [into] whether it’s true or false. I want to make note the Regulator is not guilty, the suspension is pending the investigation, to assure she does not interfere with the investigation,” he said. 

The Assistant Regulator for the Legal Division, Fesola’i Cecily Fa’asau, has been named as Acting C.E.O., the Minister said. 

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