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Freeze on annual increments for locally funded positions is lifted

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In a memo issued Tuesday, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga lifted the freeze on annual increments for locally funded positions for Executive Branch employees, following a recommendation by the Annual Increment Team, headed by Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga.

The governor said the panel has recommended to lift the ban, according to the memo forwarded to executive branch cabinet members. Samoa News notes that while there was a freeze on increments for locally funded positions, there was none on those funded by federal grants.

 “This communique officially lifts the ban on the annual increments for locally funded positions to eliminate the disparity existing with federally funded positions,” Lolo wrote. “This decision is not made lightly, given our commitment to financial prudence and full accountability of all public funds.”

Moreover, the sacrifices which government employees have been making since FY 2013 “reflects our pledge and promise to contain government spending to actual revenues collected,” the governor points out. “It has been our operating philosophy not to execute a government-wide layoff or execute reduced working hours.”

 “These sacrifices helped transform the government’s operating mantra by ensuring the elimination of operating deficit accumulation, as has been the previous practice,” Lolo said, adding that he and Lemanu “are grateful and thankful to all government employees for their patience, which helped us attain this monumental feat.”

Lolo outlined the “following factors” for implementing this policy:

• This will be a one-step increment for all government employees;

• Lifting the increment ban is effective Oct. 1, 2019, so all employees with service anniversary dates starting Oct. 1, 2019, to the promulgation date of this policy rescission shall be entitled to the step increment with full satisfaction of the conditions hereto contained;

• Annal increment is merit-based and not an entitlement. Which means that if your annual evaluation recommends no annual increment, you will not be entitled to one; and

• All employees who had salaries adjusted this fiscal year [2020] will not be eligible for the benefits of this initiative.

Members of the Annual Increment Team includes Human Resources director Eseneiaso J. Liu; ASG Treasurer Ueligitone Tonumaipe’a; deputy treasurer Tina Va’a; ASG Budget and Planning Office director Catherine Saelua; the governor’s chief of staff, Fiu J Saelua; and the governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira.

During FY 2020 budget hearings, lawmakers called on the governor to consider reinstating increments for locally funded positions, as the cost of living continues to go up and many workers have been in government service for many years.