Update: Gov issues Code of Ethics: Simply put — stop taking ‘mealofas’
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “Leadership, Integrity, and Commitment” are the three main priorities outlined in Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga’s Executive Order, establishing the Code of Ethics for the Executive Branch, and these are the priorities that the Administration says are the guidelines for behavior that the governor and Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Ale, expect from their employees.
“ASG employees, regardless of their positions, should not engage in any activities that would present a conflict of interest. Including taking part in any private businesses that conduct business with their respective agency,” according to a news release from the Governor’s Office, last Thursday and accompanies the six-page executive order, dated Dec. 13th, which was also the effective date of the regulation.
It also says that the Code of Ethics reflects the governor’s “interest in ensuring fairness across the entire Administration” and he “expects unprejudiced and nondiscriminatory conduct by the employees of ASG while providing government services.”
Additionally, it “also serves as guidelines for ethical and socially responsible behavior. It is also the hope that this high standard will encourage the recruitment and [retention] of those best qualified to serve in those capacities.”
The executive order noted that it’s essential that the government functions in a manner consistent with the highest ethnical standards and consistent policies on ethics should be applied to all executive officers and employees.
It points out that employees should use their powers and resources to further the public interest and not for any financial or other personal benefit, other then salaried compensation and employer-provided benefits.
Furthermore, ASG employees must safeguard their ability to make objective, fair, and impartial decisions and therefore should not accept benefits of any sort under circumstances in which it could be inferred by a reasonable observer that the benefit was likely to influence a pending or future decision or to reward a past decision.
“American Samoa Government employees must avoid any conduct, whether in context of business, financial, or social relationships, which might undermine the public trust, whether that conduct is unethical or lends itself to the appearance of ethical impropriety,” the order said.
Under the principle of Leadership, the order states that all government employees:
• are expected to be leaders regardless of their positions and if you are not in a position of leadership, you can still set the example for others to follow;
• should build consensus and accommodate diverse opinions in order to make decision through effective communications; and
• shall hold themselves and their coworkers accountable.
“Leaders should understand that people make honest mistakes” and that “employees who are treated fairly when they are honest and tell their supervisors about their errors will work harder to prevent future problems”.
Under Integrity, the order said employees:
• shall not solicit or accept tips, gifts, or any other payment to allow any person to bypass normal procedures or to perform service that is normally done without charge;
• shall make every effort to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. And in cases where there is potential conflict, the employee shall report it to their supervisor, who will determine if there could be the appearance of conflict and take appropriate actions to ensure the government processes;
• may not engage in any private business which contracts with their own agency; and
• shall accept the responsibility to expose corrupt, unethical behavior, fraud, waste and abuse.
Under the Commitment provision of the order, it says that employees:
• are expected to work and perform duties diligently;
• should treat every person equally with fairness and dignity regardless of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability and political affiliation;
• shall act in good faith and in a professional, response and courteous manner; and
• comply with the laws of American Samoa
“Sexual harassment is prohibited,” the order emphasized, and noted that all employees will commit themselves to creating a professional environment that is fair and welcoming.
The governor’s order designates the Territorial Auditor, as the Executive Branch’s Chief Ethics Officer, who will coordinate training of Ethics Officers for the Executive Branch. And each agency will designate an Ethics Officer.
Through a Dec. 16th memorandum, the governor informed cabinet directors to provide the Chief Ethics Officer with the name and contact information of their ethics officer by Jan. 2, 2022. Additionally, each agency is to post the Code of Ethics in English and Samoan along with the name of the agency’s ethics officer in their main office.
The governor encourages ethics officers and executive branch employees to submit questions about the executive order and ethical problems to the Chief Ethics Officer. “This will help us understand the training needs that should be met as we implement the Code of Ethics,” he said.
The order spells out the enforcement, which includes that reports of violation may be made to the agency’s ethics officer, the director or the head of the agency involved, the Attorney General, Human Resources director and the Territorial auditor.
It also says that ethics officers may request the assistance of Public Safety Department, Territorial Auditor or any other agency to assist with the investigation into a report of alleged violations of the Code of Ethics.
Additionally, violations may be disciplined pursuant to provisions of local law.
“Retaliation against any person who reports unethical or illegal conduct in good faith is prohibited,” according to the order, which remains in effect until Jan. 03, 2025 unless it is extended, superseded, amended or repealed.
(Samoa News notes that Jan. 3, 2025 is when the 4-year term of the current administration officially ends.)
The news release last week from the Governor’s Office says that Lemanu has looked closely at past codes and has updated policies that seemed efficient and maintained those that continue to uphold the highest ethical standards.
“The Executive Code of Ethics has long-reflected an important standard of integrity for Executive Branch appointees," Lemanu is quoted in the news release as saying.
He continued, "It is of the utmost importance to the Lieutenant Governor Talauega and me that we build on our strengths as a workforce and encourage our leaders to serve to the best of their abilities.
“Every cabinet meeting, the directors are reminded about practicing accountability and integrity. We have placed high expectations for them, and together with my entire Administration, we can continue to restore faith and trust in government and uphold high standards for public service."