Treasurer vigorously defends overtime pay for department
“The Department of Treasury spent hundreds of grueling hours just to stabilize the financial condition of ASG for the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2013. Consequently, many hours were spent to meet the mandate as set forth by the Governor — which led to paying overtime to some of my staff,” said Treasurer Dr Falema’o Phil Pili in responding to Samoa News questions regarding overtime pay.
The Treasurer was responding to the story on Tuesday “DHR launches probe into OT payments by Treasury.”
Falema’o stated that he welcomes the investigation by the Department of Human Resources, on the overtime paid to senior employees of the Department of Treasury, however, he says, in January of 2013, Governor Lolo Moliga gave him a mandate to carry out and as he reports directly to the Governor, he set about a plan to carry out the mandate.
“Due to the inadequate and under skilled staff it was a steep uphill climb that required hundreds of overtime hours by my senior staff members," he told Samoa News.
Samoa News should point out that according to the leaked documents regarding four Treasury employees who received overtime, the overtime was not routed through the Department of Human Resources, as mandated by the governor, and one of the staff paid overtime holds the position of secretary.
According to Treasury employees who wish not to be named, after the overtime is approved by the Treasurer, it goes through the process, however in the case at hand, none of the overtime in question went through the proper process.
In his response, the Treasurer explained that with the Governor’s approval he authorized overtime for several employees in the Department of Treasury, not just four senior staff members. He added that whatever they were paid in overtime "could not begin to compensate" all of them for their personal sacrifice by working late throughout many nights and weekends to help carry out the governor's mandate.
He added, “I only regret that they could not be more well compensated for all their hard work! And, when one considers the MILLIONS OF DOLLARS THAT HAVE HAD A POSITIVE IMPACT BENEFIT ON THE ECONOMY, the few thousand it cost in overtime wages is mere pennies. Our mission in the Department of Treasury “…is to provide economic biorhythm for the entire country… We accomplished that in FY 2013! (See Background at end of story for possible definition of “economic bioryhthm”)
The Treasurer further stated he welcomes any investigation by Human Resources into the overtime hours and that each ASG director has a designated budget to work with — and "we are not subservient to the HR in any way."
"My direction comes from Governor Moliga — the overtime issue is between me and the Governor," he stated.
Falemao says he is aware of his mandate with respect to the Department of Treasury. "Sadly, whoever pried into payroll records to reveal this to you violated all ethical, moral, employee and legal standards. By publishing this article more fit for The National Enquirer than for Samoa News, a mere result of an unfortunate individual who would rather complain than put their heart and soul into building up the Territory, we are distracted from our real understanding of the betterment of ASG finances for the betterment of every citizen of our territory."
The Treasurer said, “Sadly, this person who “leaked” the information should be focusing their energy into building up the economy of American Samoa instead of spying on issues that do not pertain to them."
Consequently, many hours were spent to meet the mandate as set forth by the Governor which led to paying overtime to some of my staff. I wouldn’t single out only certain senior staff employees as you reported, because I had authorized other divisions of the Department to turn in their overtime hours so they may at least be compensated for their hard work during these nine months of grueling work requirement."
Falema’o noted he hopes that the investigation by HR will make clear that the thousands spent in overtime pay is a small price to pay to generate the millions of dollars that have helped to stabilize the economy of the territory.
The Treasurer, who’s currently off island, pointed out that since January 2013 until the end of the fiscal year on September 30, he is thrilled to announce that for the first time in more years than anyone can remember the budget of American Samoa HAS BEEN BALANCED! “We are in the black!”
He pointed out the fiscal year in shining colors although they entered the precarious and risky waters of a federal shutdown and there were no ASG offices that closed down due to the federal shutdown, a mind boggling feat to carry out because since January, 2013 ASG was able to generate enough revenue and have in reserve adequate funds to cover payroll.
All ASG employees were paid their full payroll despite the fact that ASG is 87% dependent on the Federal Funds. That is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself, he pointed out.
Despite the myriad challenges, since January 2013 ASG payroll has never been missed, not once! Pili said, noting missed payrolls were the norm during previous administrations.
He continued, millions of dollars in revenue have been generated and collected during the nine months Governor Moliga has been in office. Cash flow has improved dramatically as is evidenced by consistently on time payment of payroll.
The Treasurer also said, all vendors have been paid in a timely fashion which rarely happened in the previous administrations, unless someone had the right connections. “In fact, Treasury have made every effort to pay vendors, many that had been waiting for years under the previous administration to be paid!”
He stated, “We are now employing five new computer financial modules to upgrade our current financial system. All within nine months! This implementation has been critical to the success of our Territory’s financial condition. We had a large collection of revenues: grant collection that was in arrears for many years and it is still an on-going task; improvement in collection at customs office and customs excise tax collection and installation of the new computer financial modules to upgrade our antiquated financial system to help mitigate our high risk status from the DOE.
"[We have] researched and developed the Gross Receipt Tax (GRT) program requiring over 1,000 man hours the last 6 months. This effort when it is in full fruition, would change entirely the revenue posture of ASG, not only today, but for years to come,” Pili said.
He also pointed out the closure of the 2012 fiscal year audit and working diligently to assist the Department of Labor to incorporate into ASG’s payroll module all guidelines and standards of the Fair Standards Labor Act (FSLA).
“All this while the IT manager (Kirk Aab) was incarcerated and subsequently placed on leave, and adequate highly skilled manpower was very limited.
“The Tax Office has spent hundreds of hours to put together a final settlement of audits of large corporations that would generate windfall revenues in the millions.
“Considering the complete state of disarray that we found American Samoa Government Finances when we came into office in January, 2013, that is really amazing, and was no easy feat given the working conditions we are under: the ASG was in a serious precarious financial condition, inadequate and inaccurate financial records, with understaffed and under skilled staff members.”
He also pointed out that Treasury was cited in an ASG financial audit conducted for 2012 by Moss Adams Auditing Firm for a lack of adequate and skilled staff.
“Really, there is no magic wand to accomplish all this, it requires hundreds of man hours to carry this out. The Department of Treasury spent 100s of grueling hours just to stabilize the financial condition of ASG for the fiscal year then ended, September 30, 2013.
“We will continue to move forward, looking into a brighter path, not looking in a rear view mirror and play this kind of petty game of “I gotcha you”. This government will never be anywhere if we take this route and attitude,” said the Treasurer.
Samoa News has emailed questions to the Governor’s Office about the Treasurer Department’s OT, with no immediate response.
Samoa News was puzzled by the use of term: “economic biorhythm” — having never heard of it. In an attempt to define this idea, we google it, and the best we could ascertain through www.princeton.edu is that:
“Biorhythm is an attempt to predict various aspects of a person's life through simple mathematical cycles. The notion has no more predictive power than chance, and is now considered a classic example of pseudoscience by modern science.”
Samoa News notes that an industry has grown up around this pseudoscience, whereby cycles — physical, emotional and intellectual cycles (23 days, 28 days, 33 days) — are calculated into formulae to predict or estimate all courses of action open to a problem at hand.
In this case, with the use of the word “economics” with “biorhythm”, Samoa News supposes the ASG Treasurer could be saying that their mission, “…to provide economic biorhythm for the entire country…” means they work out ways of estimating or predicting the territory’s courses of action to a successful economy, using biorhythm cycle calculations.
Pili is saying they accomplished their mission for FY2013, by pointing out the government finished in the black.
Samoa News also notes, when the documents were leaked, the question at the core of the OT issue, was why the Governor’s mandate about OT, issued in May 2013, that OT must be approved by DHR, by-passed by employees of the Treasurer.
According to Pili’s reply, he answers only to the Governor and the Governor told him to do whatever necessary to get the job done, which includes OT.
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