Status of P.S.C. ‘green lane’ inquiry critical
Six weeks out from the end of the year and the authorities are yet to sign off on a major investigation within a Government Ministry.
Early this year both the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) and the Police initiated separate investigations into the conduct of an Assistant Chief Executive Officer at the Ministry of Customs and Revenue.
The investigations focused on allegations that the A.C.E.O. Alvin Onesemo abused his position while working at the Ministry. He allegedly used the Ministry’s ‘green lane’ classification for imported goods to assist his family members, by releasing shipping containers without proper authorisation or duty payment.
It is a serious allegation and probably the first to be linked to one of the four lanes (green, red, yellow and blue) that the M.C.R. began using in 2000, after its introduction by the World Customs Organisation (W.C.O.) to facilitate trade clearance.
The investigations then made headlines as in a 1 July 2021 official correspondence obtained by this newspaper, the M.C.R. Chief Executive Officer Matafeo Avalisa Viali-Fautuali’i, had asked the Police Ministry through the Police Commissioner to delay its investigation and wait for the P.S.C. to complete its inquiry.
Close to four months after Matafeo wrote that letter to the Police Commissioner, Fuiavaili'ili Egon Keil, the public is yet to get an update from the relevant authorities on whether the investigation is complete.
Perhaps both the heads of the M.C.R. and the P.S.C. should enlighten us why the investigation undertaken by the P.S.C. into the conduct of the A.C.E.O. is taking close to a year to conclude?
And where does this delay in completing the investigation put Mr Onesemo in terms of his rights as the one at the centre of the investigation?
In fact we believe the integrity of the investigation was already tarnished when Matafeo wrote to the then Police Commissioner mid-year, requesting that the Police investigation be delayed until the P.S.C. one is done.
As the head of the M.C.R. it was incumbent on the C.E.O. recusing herself from the investigation – regardless of whether it was the P.S.C. or the Police – in order for the probe to independently determine if there was wrongdoing. It is in the interest of justice that the investigation is done with integrity, fairness and diligence.
Matafeo’s 1 July 2021 letter to the Police Commissioner immediately raised red flags and her reference to the former Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P) administration in the same letter, while emphasising the former government’s “overall interest”, already created doubt in the minds of the public.
So with question marks hanging over the integrity of the investigation into the conduct of the senior M.C.R. officer, perhaps, it would be more appropriate for the P.S.C. Chair Lauano Vaosa Epa to give an update.
We think this is critical in order to restore public confidence in our public institutions, such as the P.S.C. and the work it undertakes to uphold and maintain standards within Samoa’s public service.
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the reputational risks that both the M.C.R. and the P.S.C. faces over this issue, could have long-term implications if not addressed properly.T
At the end of the day, the culpability of a public servant will be determined by the evidence that a probe could uncover, and both the P.S.C. and the Police have roles to play in that process.
Prolonging an investigation into a public official’s conduct and delaying the release of its findings is not in anyone’s favour including the accused.
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