Minister puts foot down over civil servant gym memberships, perks

The Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.) has been warned that permanent Government employees are not entitled to “benefits” such as medical assistance, gym membership and reimbursement of tuition fees. 

The Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, said he was enraged to discover that L.T.A. staff had monthly workouts at a fitness centre paid for amounting to a total cost of $2,278.

Papali’i said these benefits were disallowed as per Cabinet policies. 

“The only benefit L.T.A. staffing should receive is their salary, nothing more,” the Minister said.

Minister Papali’i told the Samoa Observer the L.T.A. have been warned to put a stop to this. 

The Minister was responding to questions regarding a recently obtained Audit Report for the 2017 Financial Year by Controller and Chief Auditor, Fuimaono Camillo Afele.

In response the L.T.A. stated that the programme benefited health and fitness for the staff in order to perform their duties.They considered it an investment for employees as a healthy individual will contribute more to the development of the Authority.

He noted that the Board has the authority, however Cabinet policies override ministry policy. 

"This means the L.T.A. continues to defy orders by Cabinet and that is why the Auditor continues to bring it up in its Audit reports it is because it’s not right," he said. 

The Minister reminded the L.T.A. that it is a Government entity and they are a service provider. 

According to the Audit Report, employees who have served a minimum of 12 months are entitled to medical assistance of $300 per annum covering spouses and children for married employees and parents for single employees who have worked more than 12 months. Across more than 90 employees the audit report found an estimated cost of $28,200 on medical fees. 

In response the L.T.A. stated the health benefit is included in the conditions and benefit manual as employee benefits and the organisation has an obligation to pay," the organisation said in its official response. 

“These serve as an encouragement for staff to perform their annual medical check-ups, stay healthy and contribute more to the Authority

Under the Authority’s Working Conditions and Entitlements, employees are entitled to $300 reimbursement of tuition fees upon successful completion of each unit per semester; as well as lump sum payment upon completion of an academic program. 

“Total reimbursement fees of employees under audit are $4,904.35. There is no formal agreement between the Authority and the employee to guarantee they continue working within a specific period of time after receiving the benefits," the auditor found. 

In response, the L.T.A. in the Audit report noted the benefits do not come until the completion of staff programmes of study. 

“The staffs are encouraged to learn and continue with their studies.” 

The Auditor also highlighted the L.T.A.’s annual budget for donations for the Financial Year in question was $10,000. 

“There is no formal policy to guide the awarding of gifts and donations as it is approved on a discretionary basis," the auditor found

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But the organisation defended the donations as a means of promoting and marketing the authority to charities and other non-profits in a way distinct from media advertisements. 


The full L.T.A. Audit Report for 2016-2017 is printed verbatim below: 

 3.8 Land Transport Authority Interim Audit for the period ended 1 July 2016 – 31 January 2017

There were more than five Requisition Driving License Books kept in the storeroom that were not recorded in the register book. This is a non compliance with Financial Policies Procedures Operations Manual on recording of unused official records. 

LTA responded that all unused booklets are registered but that was a one off order that was not recorded during the spot check. The register booklet of all unused official booklets have been recorded and registered as of date

2. Petty cash vouchers were not approved by Finance Manager before cash disbursement to recipients. While some recipients did not sign to confirm the cash recorded was received. 

Management has noted the recommendation and taken on board the approval of the petty cash voucher with requisition approval to be signed off before disbursement is released to the recipient. All petty cash disbursement have been approved before release of cash.

3. There are variances with the general ledger monthly balance from bank reconciliations from 31st July 2016 to 31st January 2017 for ANZ Account (LTA Operating Bank Account) and monthly ending balances reflected on the general ledger. MYOB System Cash Accounts should be updated monthly to include all transactions incurred. 

LTA responded the variances of ledger balances are adjustments of stale cheques that were written off. These adjustments have been adjusted before the end of the financial year.

4. Employee staff were entitled to workouts paid by the Corporation on a monthly basis. The total cost paid to a Fitness Centre for the period under audit is $2,278. 

This benefit is for health and fitness for the staff in order to perform their duties. It is considered an investment for employees for a healthy individual will contribute more to the development of the Authority.

5. According to the Authority’s Working Conditions and Benefits Manual Section 29.2 Medical Assistance, employees who have served a minimum of 12 months are entitled to medical assistance of $300 per annum covering spouses and children for married employees and parents for single employees. 94 employees have worked more than 12 months with an estimated cost of $28,200 on medical fees. The general ledger as of 31 January reflects a total cost of $13,000 for medical expenses. 

LTA responded that the health benefit is included in the Conditions and Benefit Manual as employee benefits for the Organisation obligation to pay. These serve as an encouragement for staff to perform their annual medical check-ups, stay healthy and contribute more to the Authority.

6. According to the Authority’s Working Conditions and Entitlements, employees are entitled to $300 reimbursement of tuition fees upon successful completion of each unit per semester. As well as lump sum payment upon completion of an academic program. Total reimbursement fees of employees under audit are $4,904.35. There is no formal agreement between the Authority and the employee to guarantee they continue working within a specific period of time after receiving the benefits. 

The benefits do not come until the completion of staff programs. Staff are encouraged to learn and continue with their studies.

7. The annual budget for donations for FY ending 30th June 2017 is $10,000. There is no formal policy to guide the awarding of gifts and donations as it is approved on a discretionary basis. The total value of donations as of date is $6,000. 

 Donations is promoting and marketing the Authority in other non-profit organisations different from media advertisements. It is a way for LTA to give back to the development of the communities through working with Non-Government Organisations(NGOs).

8. The Authority has spent $995.50 on payments for the approved government sports day.

The sports day was part of the National Health Week which was why the Authority funds were used to pay for expenses incurred.

9. The audit committee spent $126 while on their sight visit on purchase of alcohol. This type of expense is prohibited under government policy as well as during working hours. 

The committee has noted the recommendation.

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