First Cabinet meeting zeros in on Gov't vehicle policy
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga yesterday issued a memo pertaining to the policy that governs and regulates the use of all Executive Branch vehicles “in an attempt to reduce government spending inherent in fuel consumption and spare parts purchases to upkeep daily usage of said vehicles, often used predominantly for non-government purposes.”
This policy, as well as three other policies were discussed by Lolo during the first cabinet meeting held yesterday morning at the governor’s office. The memo stated that effective at 4 p.m. Jan. 11 all vehicles will be parked at the Motor Pool Compound in Tafuna at the end of each operating day.
“No vehicle will be taken home by any government employee unless thoroughly justified by the director or acting director demonstrating a ‘life or death’ threat necessitating the use of the vehicle after hours,” Lolo declared.
If authorization is granted to take the vehicle home, the “vehicle will not be used for personal or family transportation to church service, shopping, or any other activity that is not related to the purpose for which the vehicle was permitted for 24 hours authorization”, according to the memo.
Lolo said a list of the authorized 24-hour vehicles will be sent to the Department of Public Safety for enforcement with instructions to impound any government vehicle seen on the highway without the proper authorization permit.
For directors and acting directors, they “are authorized to take the assigned vehicles home to be used for official government business only and not for personal transportation of spouses, children, or family members,” Lolo emphasized.
The memo also says that directors or acting directors will bear the burden of justifying to the governor the need for the 24-hour pass and such justification must be supported by a thorough description of the service which will be impacted without the use of the vehicle on a 24/7 basis.
Further, the directors and acting directors will develop internal policies to regulate the use of assigned vehicles for agency business during working hours. For example, Vehicle Use Log will be maintained and daily updated, containing information on fuel consumption, ancillary expenses for repairs, mileage consumed during each working day, and additional information connected with the use of the vehicle particularly if the vehicle was involved in an accident.
It will be the responsibility of the director or acting director to set internal policies particular to the process and procedures to ensure that all agency vehicles are transported and parked at the Motor Pool Compound after each work day and vehicle pickup at the start of the work day.
Public Works Department’s director is charged with the development and distribution of policies and procedures connected with the handling of agency vehicles when they are turned in and picked up each work day along with monitoring and securing the vehicles while parked at the compound.
Lolo made clear in the memo that directors and acting directors will “bear the responsibility for any incurred violations given their overall duty to promote clear awareness regarding the existence of this policy.”
However, Lolo warned that the “driver of the government vehicle who is involved in the accident will bear the financial cost of repairing the vehicle or the full replacement value based on the Blue Book Value if the vehicle is declared a ‘total loss’.”
“Moreover, the employee will also be held responsible for awards resulting from any personal injury law suits filed against the American Samoa Government resulting from the accident,” he said adding that if the employee is exonerated by Court Decree supported by the Policy Investigative Report, the employee will be absolved from any financial liability connected with the accident.
The memo also authorized and instructed the Police Commissioner to impound all government vehicles not authorized for 24/7 use. Impounded cars during the weekday are to be parked at the DPS compound in Fagatogo for retrieval by agency’s director or acting director.
If the vehicle was impounded during the weekend it will remain parked in front of the Police Station in Fagatogo until the next work day.
DPS is also instructed to record the name of the driver and the time infraction was perpetrated for transmittal to the director or acting Director to support any disciplinary action that is recommended in the ASG Personnel Manual and conduct unbecoming a public servant.
Lolo went on to advise the Police Commissioner to develop a 24/7 User Sticker that is easily identifiable by police officers to be displayed clearly on each government vehicle authorized for after-hours use. A log of all authorized 24/7 vehicles should be readily accessible to Public Officers to facilitate enforcement of this policy.
According to the memo, vehicles for the Legislature, the Judiciary Branch, and Authorities are exempted from this policy declaration.
Nevertheless the Authorities and the exempt agencies - which are DPS, Homeland Security and Health Department - “are cautioned to adopt the spirit of these policies to contain the costs resulting from fuel consumption, vehicle repair expenses, and acceleration in the vehicle depreciation due to overuse caused not be official business but personal business,” said Lolo who noted that this policy will be in effect and will continue indefinitely unless superseded by an amending policy.