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DHR director: Calls ASDOE hiring process “multi-faceted and complex”

Department of Human Resources director Evelyn Vaitautolu Langford says hiring for vacancies at the Department of Education are not simple processes that can be said to be solely the fault of DHR, it is a shared responsibility.

She noted that some of the currently vacant teaching posts will be filled soon, after thorough consultation with ASDOE officials.

During last Wednesday’s House session, Rep. Taotasi Archie Soliai called for the House Government Operations Committee to hold a hearing for Langford to explain why there are so many unfilled positions — including 50 teaching posts — at public schools.

He said he received this information following meetings with DOE officials who claimed the delay is due to the hiring process at Human Resources. Taotasi’s concern was echoed by House Education Committee chairman Rep. Lemapu Suiaunoa Talo, who supports a House hearing — which is not yet scheduled.

Asked about the delay in DOE hiring, Langford told Samoa News on Friday that the issues with DOE vacancies and the delay in filling the positions “are multifaceted and complex and cannot be narrowed down to the sole explanation of delays in DHR.”

She explained that the hiring action for filling any department vacancy “is an action that is a shared responsibility” between the requesting department, DHR, Office of Planning and Budget and, in the case of employment contracts, the Office of the Attorney General.

“Although it is a shared responsibility, DHR is responsible for creating and executing policies related to the hiring process,” she told Samoa News, and noted that the process for filling a personnel vacancy is established by the American Samoa Administrative Code that directs statutory requirements that must be followed.

Regarding DOE, the largest government department, Langford said DHR, Office of Budget and Planning and Department of Treasury had been working very closely with the staff of the DOE on corrective action plans (CAPs) identified from previous and ongoing audits and even more so at the start of the awarding of DOE’s Consolidated Grant.

(Consolidated Grant from the U.S. Department of Education is the largest funding source for the local DOE at around $20 million. The CAPs are required by the U.S. Department of Education due to the local DOE’s “high risk” designation.)

“The 50 vacancies in the DOE have become available for fill with teachers that have resigned or retired in the last quarter as well as the identification of former employees who were still occupying the positions, but were never cleared from the HR database system,” Langford explained. “In these instances, a former employee left their position in government but did not complete their final routing of employment clearances.”

“With the recent identification of these 50 vacant positions, we met with the DOE leadership and assisted in developing a timeline for emergency hire procedures to fill these positions, which include school cooks, bus drivers and teachers,” she said. “The emergency hire procedure allows for immediate placement of a candidate but is still subject to the standard processes for compliance and the requirement for source documentation; the latter being a common finding in recent audit reports.”

“Approximately 75% of the interviews have been completed for the DOE vacancies; and effective dates for placement of these have been approved for February 27, 2012, which will allow for the candidates to complete their employment clearances,” she said.

Langford also provided in a detailed e-mail reply to Samoa News questions about many new details of other developments in DHR to improve government services, and Samoa News will report on these important issues later this week.

She also provided some very specific details of what DHR goes through in the hiring process, which has been the subject of many Fono and public complaints, and Samoa News will also report on this separately later this week.