P.S.C. responds to M.E.S.C. prayer service at H.R.P.P.

The Public Service Commission has responded to questions over a prayer service hosted by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture at the party headquarters of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) last week.

Queries sent to the Chairman of the P.S.C., Aiono Mose Sua, sought answers to M.E.S.C. having a prayer service at the homebase of a political party, in contradiction of a Circular Memo that had been issued by the Commission calling for public servants to remain neutral and impartial. 

The P.S.C. memo was issued on Wednesday, 14 April to all Government Heads of Ministries and Offices; and the M.E.S.C. prayer service was held later that evening at Maota i Petesa, Mulinuu.

In an email response to questions, Aiono said permission by the P.S.C. is not needed for Government ministries to hold prayer services, nor the location where they are to be held. 

However, he added that if advice from the Commission had been sought, they would have suggested differently.

"If advice had been sought, the advice given would have been to seek another location, as the current climate is likely to mean that the location of the prayer service is more important to some than the prayer service itself," said Aiono.

He went on to say that the P.S.C. re-emphasises the message shared in their memo, for all public servants to take reasonable care on social media.

The memorandum was issued a few days after the General Election had wrapped - where the two main parties, H.R.P.P. and Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T) tied for Parliamentary seats. 

Government's prayer services - held on a monthly basis with a rotating list of public sector agencies that take turns hosting - were thrust in to the spotlight after M.E.S.C. shared the service to their Facebook page, with photos of all those in attendance at the H.R.P.P. headquarters. 

The ministry has since removed the post of the prayer service, attended by the party members as well as the National University of Samoa and Samoa Qualifications Authority staff, from their Facebook page.

Caretaker Minister of M.E.S.C. Loau Solamalemalo Keneti Sio commented when approached by the Samoa Observer last week, saying the decision was finalised by the church minister who conducted the prayer service. 

Text from the Public Service Memorandum, which was signed by Aiono, is shared below:

VALUES OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE

"We wish to remind all the public servants and employees of the Government of Samoa to take reasonable care when expressing their views on social media that may undermine the political neutrality of the public service of bring the reputation of the public service into disrepute. 

The Commission recognizes that employees of the public service have a right to express their views on social media. However, this right must be balanced with the obligations of the Public Service employment, and the need to be seen as a trusted and impartial public servant.

The Public Service Act 2004 makes it a requirement that all Public Servants must uphold the Public Service Code of Conduct and Values of the Public Service such as impartiality and respect to ensure they fulfil their duties in a professional and unbiased manner."

According to the Public Service Code of Conduct, Government employees must be honest and impartial.

"This provision requires employees to be honest and truthful in their dealings with their fellow workers, members of the public, their CEO, their responsible Minister and the Government in general. It also requires employees to act and provide advice without fear or favor of anyone and generally to make decisions on their merits alone. Employees should act apolitically and serve the Government with impartiality, regardless of which party is in power and which party they personally support."

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