A.C.E.O. "manipulated" hiring process; will face discipline

The Public Service Commission will initiate disciplinary proceedings against a top planning official over the recruitment for a senior Ministry of Work Transport and Infrastructure (M.W.T.I) role.

Limutau Kirisimasi Seumanutafa, the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of M.W.T.I., was found to have “improperly manipulated the recruitment and selection process”.

The Commission has since overturned the appointment of Lupeotalalelei Tipi to the position of Senior Strategic Planning Officer as part of their investigation.

Ms. Tipi was the Assistant Secretary to Magele Hoe Viali – at the time he was C.E.O. of the Samoa Airport Authority.

Magele has since gone on to become the Chief Executive Officer of the M.W.T.I. 

The position was awarded instead to Hans Fa’auuga Iere with immediate effect at a 29 October meeting of the P.S.C., following an appeal by Hans after he was overlooked for the position.

A P.S.C. letter dated 12 November signed by Chairman Aiono Mose Sua, outlines the outcome of Hans’ appeal against his failure to be recruited to the appointment. 

The Samoa Observer contacted Limutau and Magele over email for comments however there has been no response. Efforts were also made to get comments from Ms Tipi but were not successful as of press time. 

According to the Chairman, the original recommendation to appoint Hans was declined by the C.E.O. on allegation of “serious misconduct.” 

The allegations against him included the signing another work colleague’s name in the staff attendance book driving a Ministry vehicle while under the influence of alcohol including careless driving. 

But Hans was not afforded the opportunity to respond to such allegations, the P.S.C. found, nor was evidence found that there were records held by the court to support the allegations of driving while intoxicated, or records of ongoing or past disciplinary action. 

The Ministry provided no supporting evidence to justify these allegations; nor was Hans afforded the opportunity to respond, the P.S.C. found. 

Hans Iere Appeal by James Robertson on Scribd

“If anything, the allegations were only raised to discourage [Hans] from lodging an appeal and grievance,” the report finds. 

“As a result [Hans] was unfairly treated in this entire process; in light of the above, we Found that there was no “justifiable cause” to not appoint [him] to the position. If anything, there is substantive proof that the process was unfair towards [him] and that the decision to appoint Lupe was not merit-based”.

The Chairman said that Magele wrote to the Commission and alleged that he knew of Ms. Tipi’s potential while she was working as the Strategic Planning Officer for the S.A.A. 

“Respectfully, this statement is misleading and not supported by the evidence. [Ms. Tipi’s] application and references from her current General Manager at S.A.A. makes no mention of [Ms. Tipi] Working as a Strategic Planning Officer.” 

Furthermore the P.S.C. noted its “serious doubt that Ms Tipi’s experience at S.A.A. is relevant to the position of Senior Strategic Planning Officer, whereas [Hans] has accumulated 18 months of relevant experience as a Strategic Planning Officer".

The letter continues to state: “We wish to take this opportunity to caution the Ministry in providing unsubstantiated allegations and incomplete files to the Office of the Public Service Commission.”

The issue of candidates’ relative experience came up in the job selection process. 

Hans’ experience of one year and six months in the workforce and maturity were also a concern expressed by the C.E.O. 

“We agree that [Hans] did not meet the three years‘ experience required by the [Job Description] However, the same can be said about [Ms. Tipi] whom we have found to have worked less than three years at S.A.A.,” the P.S.C. concluded. 

According to the letter, the main issue for the Commission to determine whether the recruitment and selection process for the position of Senior Strategic Planning Officer followed the proper process as mandated by the Public Service Act 2004, the Public Service Regulations 2008 and the Commission‘s Policies relevant to this matter. 

“We found that on the balance of probabilities the process applied in this matter did not follow the criteria laid down by Parliament in the Act and the Commission’s policies on recruitment and selection for general employees,” the report said. 

“In particular but not limited to the following, we found that Limutau improperly manipulated the recruitment and selection process for the benefit of [Ms. Tipi]. 

“Lirnutau manipulated the independent Panel Members (I.P.M.) individual assessment form without the I.P.M.’s knowledge or consent. 

“The manipulation was intentional as it favoured Lupe only, at the expense of [Hans]. As a result, the C.E.O. endorsed [Ms. Tipi's] appointment on a recommendation that was defective.

”We found that Limutau’s assessment of the applicants, in particular [Ms.] Lupe, was not merit-based."

The ranking of candidates was also found to have been altered by Limutau, who was found to have changed Independent Panel Member's rankings of applicants, to raise Ms. Lupe's ranking to second place, or on equal terms with Hans. 

An earlier assessment by an Independent Panel placed the Ms. Lupe at 5th place and the appellant, Hans, in first place. 

"Limutau's dishonest act in altering and misrepresenting the [rankings is] clear," the report found. 

"This lack of fairness and impartiality had a damaging impact on Han's application for the position

“Limutau alleged that his decision to recommend the appointment of Lupe was to accommodate the C.E.O.'s instructions to ‘pick’ Lupe before the interviews took place. In other words, Lupe’s appointment was ‘pre-determined’."

“We found that Limutau was not honest or impartial throughout the recruitment process. As a result, Limutau failed to promote a fair and unbiased merit based recruitment process”. 

Magele was instructed to cancel the appointment of his former executive assistant, Ms. Tipi, to the position of Senior Strategic Planning Officer pursuant to section 8 of the Public Service Act 2004, effective immediately. 

The P.S.C. ruled to ban Limutau in any further recruitment and selection process until the Commission directs otherwise.

“It is important that all decisions are made on their merits and that any allegation of suspected misconduct are properly investigated and dealt with according to the Act,” the report says. 

“We advise the Ministry to adhere to all laws and policies governing the recruitment and selection of general employees to the public service. 

“lt is a statutory requirement for all public servants to observe the Public Service Act 2004, the Public Service Regulations 2008, and the Comrnission’s policies concerning appointments. 

“A failure to observe the above would undermine the integrity of the public service, and the public’s trust in the executive arm of Government.”

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