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Governor tells his cabinet DHSS food stamp issue is a “reminder to all of us as leaders”

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga [SN file photo]
Says this is what happens when leaders ignore their responsibility…

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga cited the Department of Human and Social Service food stamp fraud case, as an example of problems occurring in a department or office if directors leave their leadership roles to someone else, while the cabinet member is off island for weeks.

The DHSS food stamp fraud issue was listed on the agenda of last Friday’s cabinet meeting and Lolo explained that it “was not put on the agenda” as a specific topic for discussion but “as a reminder to all of us as leaders,” that the reason these types of things happen” is when leaders ignore their responsibility or have someone else handle the leadership role.

No matter what “excuse” is made, it’s “us as leaders” who shoulder the responsibility when these types of problems and issues occur in government, he said. 

“And that’s why Lt. Gov. Lemanu and I put this matter on the agenda as a reminder from us to you, that the reason problems occur is that the [director] ignored his/ her responsibility,” Lolo said, and reiterated a few times more that the reasons problems and other issues arise is when leaders ignore their duties and responsibilities.

He says that there are many times cabinet directors are off island and are not at their post, leaving the leadership role to someone else. He pointed out that a director could be off island for two or three weeks and later return to work to find decisions made by others that are not in accordance with policies and regulations.

For example, overtime is incurred and then the director tries to find justification, the governor said.

“We shouldn’t be pointing fingers” to those who caused the problems in offices and departments, but instead ‘point fingers to ourselves’ for failure as a leader, who should be at the job instead of giving the leadership role to someone else,” the governor declared.

He reminded directors that it’s their responsibility as a leader to know what is happening in his/ her department as well as the government.

The meeting agenda also included “Director’s Primary Responsibility” issues, in which Lolo pointed out that a director’s responsibility is to respond to needs of the public.

For example, the recent case out of Amouli, where a family sought help, but was told to check with the Public Works Department.

“You are a government director and your responsibility is to pick up the phone and call the right person, responsible for the job to be done,” he told cabinet members but didn’t provide details of this matter.

He said, “We are all leaders in government” and should respond to public needs, whether the matter falls under the jurisdiction of another agency. He said the Amouli family went on for two weeks looking for help, adding that this is not acceptable when it comes to providing government services to the public.

“This is our whole responsibility to find ways to help … the public,” he said and recommended to cabinet members to expand their services to the public and not just matters pertaining to their own respective agency.