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Lolo warns directors to use proper channels — don't just hire relatives

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga
He said everyone should get a chance to apply for an open position
It’s been a practice by directors” to recruit a person that the director wants, and then later takes it to DHR for processing.

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Among the issues raised by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting is  the hiring of employees for Executive Branch departments and offices, saying the recruitment process rests with the Department of Human Resources (DHR)

Lolo noted that one of the ongoing problems in government is the recruitment of the executive branch’s workforce and “it’s been a practice by directors” to recruit a person that the director wants, and then later takes it to DHR for processing.

If a person goes directly to a director for a job, Lolo said it’s that director’s responsibility to have the person fill out a job application first, and turn it in to DHR, which then carries out the review process.

“The [executive branch] has a process in hiring workers,” he emphasized. “The process of hiring rests with DHR and the position needs to be advertised, giving others the opportunity to apply. Unless it’s a position dictated by law or comes under the Governor’s Office, then the hiring for those positions is based on the governor’s decision.”

What’s happening now, for example, is that Immigration hires people, and then provides the names of 10 people recruited. “That’s not how it works. All those names are submitted to HR with their applications for review, followed by discussions for a final decision,” he said.

DHR director Eseneiaso Liu reminded directors that the law is clear on the hiring process, and that includes the submission of the proposed position to be filled, and cleared with the ASG Budget, if there’s funding. The position also must be advertised, she said, noting that if the position is funded with local revenues, it goes to the governor for approval, but if it’s grants, DHR moves forward with the process, as the governor has given DHR the authority to do so.

She said some employees who were hired by departments and agencies have complained to DHR of not receiving a paycheck. However, DHR is not aware of such hires and it’s not in the ASG system for employees, she said.

She asked all directors to work with DHR to ensure these problems don’t continue to occur in the future.

The governor pointed out that one of the important issues for the administration is  employing people of the territory, and he told directors that it’s their job to find work for sons and daughters of American Samoa looking for employment.

He added that one of the “problems now” is that departments and offices are waiting for a long time for DHR to process applications for available jobs. He urged DHR to move forward with filling these job vacancies, as requested by directors.

Lolo mentioned that directors are complaining to his office of waiting — for example 4 to 5 months — for DHR to complete the hiring process. He said it’s later discovered that an application is still sitting at either DHR or Budget.

He asked DHR not to use the review process to delay the need of an agency to hire people. “Find a way to recruit our people,” he said, and told all directors that it’s not right if they push for hiring a person who is their relative, instead of giving everyone a chance to apply.

The hiring practice issue comes at a time when there are still complaints from some residents about waiting a long time for a job in government after applying for it, while others don’t take long to get their foot in the door.