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P.M. requests payouts for Govt. officials turned candidates

The Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is defending a request by the Prime Minister to make a “one-off” payout to six Government officials who resigned to contest the election. 

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, requested that the Ministry officials’ contracts be paid from 23 October until the final session of Parliament, documents obtained by the Observer show. 

All six officials stepped down to contest the forthcoming election under the banner of the Prime Minister’s Human Rights Protection Party. 

The Prime Minister's submission to Cabinet was attached with legal advice by Attorney General Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annadale. 

Savalenoa said there was no provision for such payouts under the law but recommended that the payouts be made as a matter of “public interest”. 

“In consideration of the public interest and principle of fairness, the Government may wish to consider approving the [.... payments] for the parties on the basis of a special one-off case,” said Savalenoa. 

The Attorney General lists the following former top officials as being affected by the payouts under their contracts: the former C.E.O. for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ulu Bismarck Crawley; the former C.E.O. of the Electric Power Corporation, Tologata Tile Tuimaleali’ifano; the former Commissioner of the Fire and Emergency Services Authority, Lelevaga Fa'afouina Mupo; Avele Principal Matafeo Reupena Matafeo; Assistant C.E.O. of the Ministry of Health, Mae’e Ualesi Silva, and Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Aiolupotea Tony Leleisuao.

The Prime Minister in his submission to Cabinet was submitted 6 October, 2020 before the officials tendered their resignation. 

The Prime Minister cited the Attorney-General’s advice for Cabinet to consider this as a “one-off” case to compensate the government officials. 

“It is clear the [...the payout] is not part of their contract,” Tuilaepa wrote. 

“However [the] public interest and the principle of fairness is the basis of the Attorney-General’s legal opinion.” 

The Prime Minister said all the C.E.O.s and A.C.E.O.s should have the “appropriate” funds paid out from the time they resigned on 23 October until Parliament dissolves before the election. 

“The C.E.O. for the E.P.C. should get what he’s entitled to under his contract given that his contract ended on 31 October, 2020."

But Tologata, the former head of the E.P.C., told the Samoa Observer that he’s not entitled to a “payout” because his contract finished on 31 October, but the other C.E.O.’s contracts ended prematurely.

Efforts to get comments from some of the other Government officials listed in the legal opinion and Prime Minister's request were largely unsuccessful.

Lelevaga told the Samoa Observer that he’s still “waiting” for the matter to be resolved before saying he could not talk. 

According to the Prime Minister’s letter the funds to compensate the candidates would come from the budgets of the officials’ relevant Ministries. 

The Attorney General in her letter to the Prime Minister indicates that her legal advice on the matter was requested. 

Savalenoa outlined the issues of whether the Government officials are entitled to any payment under relevant laws and contracts of employment upon resignation to run for public office. 

“Is the Government obligated to pay out the remaining of the parties’ contract term upon resignation and termination by way of registration for nomination as candidates for election?,” Savalenoa wrote. 

“I advise this request is not provided for under the relevant laws or granted under the Contracts of Employment.”

“There is no specific law providing for any entitlements of public servants and Government officers upon resignation and termination by way of nomination for election purposes. 

“In addition, the parties’ contracts do not specifically provide for the same. 

“However pursuant to clause 15(b) (i) of the P.S.C. parties contract, they may become entitled to end of contract entitlement or severance payment to be calculated on a pro-rata basis. 

“On the other hand the [State Owned Enterprises] parties are not entitled to any payment upon resignation and termination […] under their contracts.” 

But the Attorney-General ultimately concluded that it would be in accordance with the principle of “fairness” if the contracts were paid out.

“[Candidates] are now required to resign 3 months before [the] dissolution of Parliament (as opposed to the previous nomination requirements),” Savalenoa’s advice reads. 

“This would be perceived as not providing an even playing field for all persons intending to enter a nomination as a candidate in any election.

“That means a period of approximately five months without financial support, church and as well as village matters, due to the changes in the law [...] introduced close to the general election 2021, a factor beyond their control. 

“In consideration of the public interest and principle of fairness, the government may wish to consider approving the following for the parties on the basis of a special one-off case.”

But the C.E.O. for M.P.M.C. Agafili Shem Leo says there are Government Human Resources policies that guide all government contractual officers' entitlements. 

“These are also clearly spelled out in their contracts whether it’s under the Public Service Commission or with a Government Corporation,” Agafili said. 

“For those planning to, or have resigned to run for elections, there are Government policies that apply. 

“Cabinet makes decisions in view of the laws and existing policies. These policies reflect the whole of Government, and are applied consistently for all public servants.”

Follow up questions sent to Agafili about whether the payouts were approved for the listed officials were not answered by press time. 

 

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