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Gov Lemanu puts a halt to pay raises and conversions from contract to career service

Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga
Some lawmakers already planned to question Admin officials about this spending

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In a Jan. 8th memorandum, Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga ordered a freeze of all pay increases and conversion of positions from contract to career service in the Executive Branch.

“In order to control spending, there will be a freeze of all pay increases and conversions of positions from contract to career service,” the governor wrote to executive branch cabinet members.

“In anticipation of reorganizing government functions,” Lemanu directed the Human Resources acting director to prepare a “report of all pay increases and transfers of positions from contract to career service... from Jan. 1, 2019 to present.”

The governor also told cabinet members that he appreciates their “continued commitment to the ethical management of government funds with which we are entrusted.”

As previously reported by Samoa News, former Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga instructed his cabinet in May last year to bring new workers on board and instructed executive branch directors to review records of ASG contract workers and to collaborate with Human Resources in order to covert them to career service employees.

Lolo said it’s important that “we protect” government workers to ensure that they have jobs. Lolo reiterated similar calls towards the end of last year, saying that there were workers, who have been working for ASG for some 20-years but are still getting less than $15,000 annually.

Such a call by the former governor had raised concerns from lawmakers, who pointed out that one of the problems with this practice is that contract workers will carry their same high salaries into their career positions.

And this was the same concern raised by House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale during the Fono’s FY 2021 budget hearings last September, telling then DHR director Eseneiaso Liu that while the long standing practice has been that salary is reduced when a position is converted from contract to career — this is no longer the case, with many conversions in the FY 2021 budget proposal having the same high salary as when the position was a contract.

If and when the Fono receives and reviews a proposed FY 2021 budget from the Lemanu Administration, some lawmakers had already planned on questioning ASG officials on the pay hikes and conversions from contract to career service.

Some lawmakers also plan on requesting an official financial report of these transactions — namely, the pay hikes and conversions.