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Governor clarifies: gov & lt. gov not entitled to OT and annual leave

During yesterday’s cabinet meeting Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga moved to clarify one issue that was raised in the Fono regarding payouts for political appointees of the current administration, when it officially ends before 12noon on Jan. 3, 2017.

According to the fiscal year 2017 budget, $1 million is allocated under Special Program budget category as payout for political appointees, which includes directors, some deputy directors and staff at the Governor’s Office — who are all on contract. The payouts are for unused annual leave.

Doing the review of the Special Program budget by the Fono Joint Budget Committee more than a week ago, Sen Galeai Tu’ufuli asked the governor’s chief of staff Fiu J. Saelua, if the governor and lieutenant governor are entitled to payouts and Fiu responded yes.

However, Galeai disagreed saying that the Attorney General should be sought for an official opinion because the governor and lieutenant governor, who are elected, are not entitled to such pay out for leave, as their salaries and benefits are set by law.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Lolo said that many times people have questioned whether he and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga are entitled to the payout.

“From [my] experience all elected officials are not entitled to overtime, [and] any annual leave,” he said adding that the governor and lieutenant governor’s pay and other benefits are set by law. Additionally, he says the salaries of local officials — such as pulenu’u and county chiefs — are also set by law except for the Secretary of Samoan Affairs.

(Under the constitution, the Secretary of Samoan Affairs serves at the pleasure of the sitting governor. The law states that the Secretary is a cabinet director although not subject to Fono confirmation.)

Lolo said political appointees are entitled to annual leave and other benefits. “Political appointees — such as yourselves who are appointed by the governor and entitled,” but the “best part is that each one of you are paid under a contract. You sign the contract, and we sign that this is what you are entitled to.”

“So there’s no question what you’ll get after serving for four years [in the administration],” he told directors. “So if by end of this year, you have 24 hours annual leave left, you’re only taking home 24 hours of annual leave. Simple as that.”

He said other benefits are stipulated in the director’s contact, such as the use of an ASG car “while you’re on the job, and a communication allowance — those are all under the contract. So there should not be any question as what directors take home when they leave this government.”

Lolo said, “I know you’re entitled to more but we are here to help our people and we appreciate your working with us and supporting our people in a lot of ways,” he said. “I know many times you are underpaid, but it’s the challenge and it’s the commitment that we’ve made to serve our people.”

During budget hearings this year, there were no questions as to whether cabinet directors were entitled to annual leave; although it was questioned in 2012 during the FY 2013 budget hearings and again during FY 2014 budget hearings.

Later this week Samoa News will report on other issues from the cabinet meeting.