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Ship Yard recruits financial administrator, still seeking a Gen Manager

The Shipyard Service Authority board of directors has recruited a finance person, who will officially start next week, while it has yet to make a decision on the person to fill the general manager position, which is also the chief executive officer post.


This was revealed yesterday during a news conference by board chairman David Robinson, who said the board earlier this year decided to advertise for the general manager and financial administrator positions.


For the financial administrator, two applications were received  — one came via the Governor’s Office through the Treasury Department and the other was from a locally-based accountant.


The one that came through the governor’s office was a Samoan woman who had worked in California for 20 some years and “we decided she was the better of the two candidates and she accepted the job. She is scheduled to start next Monday,” said Robinson.


The finance administrator is Debbie Voight and during the past two days, she has been working with Peter James for a smooth transition into the job.


James, according to Robinson, has been helping the shipyard over the past 12 months, under arrangements made with the the American Samoa Economic Stimulus and Recovery Office (ASESRO). He worked at the shipyard part time, starting with two hours a day and increased to four hours a day when he had less work at ASESRO. James was the grants coordinator for ASESRO.


James left last night for the U.S. and Robinson confirmed that James did inform the board that he was leaving the territory and the board is very thankful for his work at the shipyard.


Robinson said James “has  been very useful to us and he has helped us with establishing programs — such as computer programs and accounting programs. We’ve got our profit and loss schedule in the computer, along with the budget and balance sheet. He has done a very good job. We wish him well.”


Asked if James applied for the job, Robinson said “no”.


James told Samoa News on Tuesday that “The shipyard cut back the salary and the position is not really attractive at this point for me, I can do better in the states,” but didn’t elaborate further on the salary issue.


During the news conference, Robinson confirmed that the salary for the finance administrator is $60,000 “which is half of what she was making in California, holding a senior accounting position getting paid $120,000 annually.”


“For a qualified accountant with her experience, $60,000 is peanuts,” said Robinson, who pointed out that this position along with the general manager post are both budgeted in the shipyard’s current fiscal year 2013 budget.


Robinson said Voight wanted to come home and she understands that “she has to take a substantial cut in pay” in the territory.


Board member Doug Harrington, who also attended the news conference, said this “post doesn't come without challenges and the job covers a wide range of issues.”


Robinson agreed, adding that Voight, the sister-in-law of Public Works director Faleosina Voight, will also be handling purchasing, personnel and other work assigned to her.


“We are asking her to do a lot more than being a financial administrator,” he said. “Debbie Voight is a lady of great experience and she wants to come back and live at home after all these years away. So I think she will fit in very nicely into the administration side of the shipyard.”


For the general manager post, this was also advertised here as well as in New Zealand, but after interviewing the off-island applicant, “the board has not yet decided what to do, because the person that was interviewed, in some respect, probably is too good for the job — if there is anything like that.”


“He is a very well qualified marine engineer and we struggled during the interview to identify whether or not the person would fit in with our local operation,” said Robinson. “It’s difficult to find somebody who will fit in with the culture, who can understand the way the Samoan culture works, [and] the way Samoan workers work.”


The board chairman said they were unable to locate potential local Samoans for the post, or otherwise they would have applied for the position, which was advertised. For now the board has promoted Peter Blackman, who has been with the shipyard for just over two decades, to acting general manager on a probationary period and he is running the shipyard now.


“Peter Blackman is someone with considerable experience,” said Robinson.


He also said that he was asked by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to take on the post of acting CEO for now, which he has done together with Harrington — both going out daily to check on the shipyard, while Blackman handles the day-to-day operations.


Robinson says the shipyard is well within its budget for the FY 2013 when it comes to expenses, including personnel costs, and “we have not exceeded expenses” in personnel costs.


“In fact we are well under budget regarding expenses,” he added.