Public servants think ‘transition’; uphold Code

Nothing has changed for Samoa’s public servants and their service charter to the people and the wider public.

The Public Service Act is explicit in how all government-employed Chief Executive Officers and Samoa Public Service employees are required to comply with and uphold the values of the public service and the Code of Conduct.

It is why revelations in the Monday 1 June 2021 edition of the Samoa Observer on the caretaker Government through a confidential Cabinet correspondence renewing the contract of the Public Service Commission Chairman Aiono Mose Sua – despite initially agreeing to put all contract appointments of public services on hold until after the swearing-in of a new government – are a cause for concern with the question of government legitimacy yet to be determined by the Supreme Court.

The Cabinet correspondence (FK 21/20) dated 19 May 2021 was signed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo who is also the Secretary of the current caretaker Cabinet.

In the letter Agafili responded to the Chairman of the Public Service Commission Aiono.

“I refer to your correspondence of 14 May 2021 apropos Cabinet decisions on contractual appointments. From 3rd March, when the caretaker Government began operating, the caretaker Cabinet agreed to hold appointment decisions on contractual positions until a new government has been sworn in,” Agafili writes. 

“Your letter highlighted important aspects of Government’s recruitment and selection process and increasing number of pending decisions since March are continuing contractual positions.

“In liaison with the Attorney General, in view of the growing backlog of pending decisions on contractual positions and the impact on government’s recruitment and selection process, it was resolved that Cabinet consider the recommendations.

“These appointments are effective immediately and the Attorney General has been instructed to prepare the warrant for the endorsement of the Head of State.”

Agafili and his superior, the caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi owe an explanation to the nation on why they’ve continued to push ahead with key appointments in the public service despite being aware of current Court proceedings.

But more worrying is whether the caretaker Government led by the Human Rights Protection Party is using the public service appointment process to maintain loyalty among key public servant position holders in the face of four unsuccessful attempts in the Supreme Court to legitimise its own moves to form a government. 

Can Agafili shed light on the “growing backlog of pending decisions on contractual positions and the impact on government’s recruitment and selection process”, which he has used as the rationale behind their recommendation to the caretaker Cabinet for its approval of the appointees?

And what legal authority is Agafili, Tuilaepa and the caretaker Government relying on to make key appointments in the public service when they are just a caretaker administration and should now be seriously considering a ‘transition period’ with the Court of Appeal expected to hand down its rulings on the various appeals?

Agafili and other senior bureaucrats should look at the leadership of the Police Commissioner Fuiavaili'ili Egon Keil – whom we think is the only senior public servant to date to act within the parameters of the public service charter – when he guided his men and women at a crucial time such as last Monday’s unprecedented locking of the Parliament and take a leaf out of his book.

With the longevity that Tuilaepa has had in office as the head of the government, clocking over 22-plus years as Prime Minister, it would be understandable having a deep sense of loyalty to a politician whose decisions or government policies landed you a job in the private sector.

But ultimately you are public servants and not politicians and your loyalty should be to the 198,000 people of this nation, whom you all swore oaths upon your entry into the public service to serve without fear or favour.

As a public servant you are obligated by the Constitution of Samoa to follow the Public Service Code of Conduct and to uphold the rule of law, which includes giving effect to the orders of the Court including the Supreme Court. 

If you are feeling conflicted as a public servant, in terms of your loyalty to the current caretaker Prime Minister and the rule of law, then obviously your continued employment in Samoa’s public service has become untenable.

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