The man name Tualimo Pio, Court files and those P.S.C. charges

The Public Service Commission has been busy. That much is undeniable, if we are to judge from the string of stories featured on the pages of this newspaper in recent days, about the outcome of its investigation into the conduct or misconduct – at the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration.

Judging from the P.S.C. charges against senior officials at the Ministry reported thus far, it appears the Commission Delegate, Maiavatele Timothy Fesili, and his team of investigators have their work cut out. 

One gets the feeling though, that there will be a lot more to come, so we await with very keen interest. What we do want to point out is that all this started sometime last year, when Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration employee Tualima Pio, spilled the beans about what was allegedly happening in the Ministry.

During an interview with the Samoa Observer at the time, he said he and the Secretary of Chief Executive Officer, Papali’i John Taimalelagi, moved files in relation to the Ainu’u title of Sapapali’i and one other about the “boundaries of Atua” from the vicinity of the Court to the Office of the Minister in 2016.

“I took the boxes of files to the Minister’s Office; I was escorted by the C.E.O.’s Secretary,” Mr. Pio told the Samoa Observer then. 

“When I reported this matter to the Chief Justice; I told him that I was instructed by the C.E.O. to take these boxes of files. I followed orders, even though I know deep down that this was wrong.” 

“I don’t care what the outcome of this is, but at least I came clean and reported the matter to the Chief Justice.”

At the time when he was asked for a comment, Minister Fa’aolesa said: “That is not true. I cannot respond to the questions, if you will not tell me who said these things to you.” Well when the story was first published on the front page of the Samoa Observer on Friday 27 April 2018, he would have known right away.

But where did Mr. Pio find so much courage to speak out against his superiors?

“The Head of State; the Prime Minister and all Cabinet Ministers come down to the Court to view the Court files; because we all know the Court files are not allowed to leave the Court. It is prohibited,” he said.

So imagine then what must have been going through his mind on that particular day in 2016, when he was doing something he was not supposed to do, following alleged instructions from his superiors? We can imagine him thinking about all those elderly people from Savaii, Manono, Apolima and far away places in Upolu – lining up outside the Land and Titles Court office everyday, having to wait for hours to see their files?

Getting back to the Minister, when he was queried, he referred all questions to C.E.O. Papali’i who strongly denied the allegations.

 “This type of allegation questions the integrity of the Ministry and that is why I want to make it clear that these are not true,” Papali’i said at the time. “There was never a time that Court documents have left the Court house.” 

He did not stop there. Instead, he went on to explain that there is a long-standing policy, which prohibits the removal of any Court records from the Courthouse.

 “There is no law or a regulation specifically on the removal of Court records. But it has been a long-standing policy since the establishment of the Court, this is not allowed,” he said. “Everyone and I mean everyone has to go through the process. Even his Highness the Head of State, Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers or Members of Parliament, C.E.O.’s if they want to conduct research on any Court filings, they have to file a request form to me.” 

“And keep in mind these records are not public records and so if you want to see these files, you have to prove in your request form your eligibility to view any file. These are different from court rulings, which are public. But Court filings and in this case the Land and Titles Court; they have to be a party in order to view the files.” 

“The request form is vetted thoroughly and we do not grant any request without going through the proper procedures.”

Okay then. That was in 2018 and we did take Papali’i’s word for it. After all, he was and still is the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice, where the truth is paramount.

Interestingly, Mr. Pio had more on his mind, also raising concerns about some of the activities at the Ministry. Said he: “I have picked up family members (of senior officials) and drive them around for grocery shopping; run errands yet this was not my job in the first place. I am not being paid by the Government to run errands for the A.C.E.O’s and their family members.”

Fast-forward to this week, it emerged that two Assistant Chief Executive Officers of the Ministry faced Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) charges, in relation to the Inquiry launched following Mr. Pio’s complaint. One of them has been sacked by the Cabinet and is likely to face a full Police investigation.

What’s more, it has also emerged that the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) has filed “misconduct” charges against Chief Executive Officer Papali’i – which we understand is connected to Mr. Pio’s allegations Court files allegations – among other things?

Will they stop there? Or are we likely to see more people charged – whether they’d be P.S.C. or Police? 

Now, on the front page of the Sunday Samoan you are reading is a letter from the P.S.C. Chairman Aiono Mose Su’a. The letter is self-explanatory.  

In the meantime, we await with bated breath the next developments of this most fascinating saga. Stay tuned!

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless! 

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