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Senators question HR director on salaries set for directors, deputies

Human Resources director Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo
Also, what happened to Summer Youth Employment paychecks?

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Human Resources director Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo told lawmakers yesterday that it is a mandate by Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga that set the salaries of Executive Branch directors at $70,000 annually and deputy directors at $65,0000.

She made the revelation during her department’s fiscal year 2022 budget hearing before the Fono Joint Budget Committee when questioned by Sen. Magalei Logovi’i about the annual salaries for the top two officials of a department.

Magalei pointed out that even offices or departments with much fewer employees — three or four — the director and deputy director still get the same pay scale as the larger departments, such as Department of Public Works with more than 100 workers.

Pulou-Alaimalo said this was the “governor’s mandate” and offered no other information as to when these salary rates were set — in FY 2021 or for the new fiscal year. She did note that the previous pay for the DHR director was $75,000 and it’s now $70,000 — in accordance with the governor’s mandate.

However, Magalei reiterated that it seems unfair for directors and deputy directors in charge of large ASG departments to get the same pay scale as those who head smaller offices. The Tualauta senator also noted that in the past many deputy directors were career service employees.

Over the years, as raised by the Fono, the sitting governor sets the pay scale for directors who are political appointees and the sitting governor also appoints deputy directors — along with setting their pay —  for some executive branch agencies. Up to now some large departments — such as DHR, Public Works, Port Administration – have had two deputy directors.

Also raised during yesterday’s DHR budget hearing, is the status of pay checks for students who participated in the government-funded Summer Youth Employment Program, which Pulou-Alaimalo said hired about 1,500 participants.

She explained that adjustments had to be made — to use the new ASG minimum wage of $7.25 that was effective July 1st, and is the reason for many paychecks not being released in a timely manner. She promised that paychecks are to be released soon and will reflect the higher minimum wage.

Paychecks for the summer-employment program were to have been released last Friday during a special event but information received by Samoa News and some lawmakers is that not all of participants got paid. Additionally, Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono said there were reports of paychecks as low as $95.

For the FY 2022 budget, the Administration is allocating $100,000 under the Special Programs — administered by the Governor’s Office — for this summer employment program, which the governor says will allow youth — during the summer break when students are not in school —  upon meeting the requirements, to be employed within any government agency or the private sector so “they can gain valuable work experiences to help them in future endeavors.”