An enthusiastic L.T.A. defiant for the public good?

By The Editorial Board 15 January 2022, 6:00AM

We were not sure whether to praise or criticise the enthusiasm shown by a Government agency recently to get back to work after the festive season holiday a week earlier.

But let’s be honest, we all know what it is like when bureaucrats clock in for work in a new year after the holidays, things are slow and queries by the public on most occasions get the standard “come back later” response as officials are still on holidays.

Even for the media – we have what is called a “slow news day” when news organisations publish or broadcast trivial news due to the absence of hard news stories – and that often happens during the Christmas period heading into the new year, when public officials are on holidays and unlikely to respond to queries until they resume.

So the article (L.T.A. defies Cabinet holiday orders) in the Friday 14 January 2022 edition of the Samoa Observer, on how the Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.) management and its employees defied Cabinet directives and clocked into work a week earlier, would have been an eye-opener.

The L.T.A. staff clocked in on Tuesday 4 January 2022 but their resumption in the new year was in breach of a Cabinet directive, for all Government employees to officially start work on Monday 10 January 2022.

The L.T.C. Board Chairman Taua Paul Philips refused to comment when contacted by this newspaper and instead demanded that the Samoa Observer reveal its source.

"You can get your answers from your sources then, but you will not get anything from me," he said. 

"Go back and have a look at the Cabinet Directive, maybe you'll get your answers there. Otherwise you can get your answers from the Minister's office."

It is understood Minister Olo Fiti Va’ai, whose Cabinet portfolio responsibilities include the authority, has written to the L.T.A. Board seeking an explanation.

For the record we would be more than happy to be sent a copy of the L.T.A. Board’s “explanation” to Minister Olo, as we think our readers should know the rationale behind the management’s decision to resume a week early.

If “service to the public” was the inspiration behind the L.T.A. management’s decision then perhaps a slap on the wrist for the top executives suffices and let’s get on with the job of nation building in 2022.

However, we are also cognisant of the residue from a politicised public service, which emerged at the height of last year’s constitutional crisis, and threatened the independence of Samoa’s bureaucracy.

Some of those former top bureaucrats were later cited for contempt of court with their matters currently before the Courts.

And we do not want to return to those days, when public servants openly questioned the Government-of-the-day, disrespecting and ignoring the will of the people, who voted for change at the April 2021 General Election.

In that regard a “please explain” letter by Minister Olo to the L.T.A. Board and management is appropriate, in order for them to explain their decision to get their staff to resume a week earlier.

The Cabinet, in consultation with the responsible Minister, could opt for disciplinary action if there is evidence of blatant defiance by the Board and the management. 

But the country yearns for a new chapter after a tumultuous 2021, following a General Election that degenerated into a constitutional crisis dividing families, the community and the nation.

And the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) Government could build the foundations for a successful 2022, based on how it addresses this oversight by an organisation which will play a significant role in nation building this year.

By The Editorial Board 15 January 2022, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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