Samoa must nurture one of its greatest investments – a pool of highly skilled and experienced public servants who are an important resource for Samoa’s ongoing development.
This was the view aired by former Associate Minister of Communication & Information Technology (MCIT) and Member of Parliament for Faleata 3, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi.
“One of Samoa’s most valuable investments over the years has been in our people,” he said, “and we have an extensive pool of Senior Officials and CEOs who’ve reached the highest level of education, and have become experts in their fields.. They have decades of experience and hold a wealth of knowledge..,” said Lealailepule.
“Many of them are well respected in the region and will no doubt be snatched up by overseas organisations if we don’t retain them..
“It would be a wasted investment and a real loss for Samoa if they’re removed from the public service and be forced to move abroad,” he added.
Lealailepule was referring to CEO contracts recently ended after contract variations for extensions, had expired.
Government has clarified that several CEO contracts had been granted 3-month extensions to await the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) Recruitment and Selection (R&S) Process. However when that extension period ended, they have been asked to vacate office while the process continues.
In October last year, seven government CEO positions were advertised through the Public Service Commission Circular, with applications due on the 19th of November 2021.
The process of interviews for various CEO’s is currently underway, and it is understood most CEOs have reapplied for positions they’d recently held.
Prime Minster Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa in response to questions from Samoa Observer during her weekly press conference last week, acknowledged the R&S process was running late.
The Prime Minister said there were several factors that caused delays to the process. Positions should be advertised at least three months before the contract expiration date, so if that first step is not done on time, then the whole process runs late, explained the Prime Minister. Another issue is the process of coordinating with independent panel members, added the Prime Minister.
A Member of Parliament since 2006, Lealailepule Rimoni said he did not disagree with the Government’s Recruitment and Selection process currently being led by the PSC, and understands there various issues that may cause delays. However, the opposition MP says his concern is with the way long serving CEO’s are being asked to vacate office.
Last week, a public notice blunder led to a Cabinet Directive (FK) that terminated a contract extension for the CEO of MESC. Afamasaga Dr Karoline Afamasaga-Fuatai was diplomatic when she faced the media. Bowing out gracefully, Dr Afamasaga-Fuatai who returned to Samoa 30 years ago in 1992 with a PhD, said Cabinet has the right to make those decisions, ““The mistake or the misinformation on our part.. has resulted in this.. The Cabinet makes the decision, the Cabinet has made the decision, and so, that’s the way things are,” Afamasaga had responded.
Speaking generally on the issue, Leailepule said Samoa’s pool of Chief Executive Officers and senior government officials are also matai who also have key roles as leaders in their villages and churches. He said he felt sorry for any senior official who would come to work in the morning as the CEO of a Government Ministry, and return home on the same day with no position whatsoever.
“I’m not disagreeing with Cabinet, no. They have the prerogative to make these decisions.. All I am saying, is that there is a way to go about it.. In our culture of reapect and sacred space between people (va-fealoai ma le feavatai) and as Samoans.. Especially since they are also matai, with long service to Samoa.”
On an update from the ongoing R&S process, the Prime Minister has confirmed the decision has been made on the first CEO advertisement that went out. The CEO of Women Community and Social Development will be soon announced by Minister Leota Laki Sio, who is nearing the end of his 3-week quarantine period, and expected to return to work next week.