Am. Samoa Government Workers’ Overtime A ‘Crisis’: Lolo

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Governor urges directors to take control of compensation practices

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Feb. 2, 2014) – American Samoa Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga is calling the compensatory time and overtime accrued over the years now a "crisis situation" in a letter to Department and Agency Directors this week.

"Our accrued financial liability caused by ballooning accumulation of compensatory time and overtime is reaching a crisis situation and bold actions must be taken to control this fiscal enigma which is beginning to undermine our financial integrity."

He reminded his cabinet that he had made an earlier policy declaration compelling American Samoa Government (ASG) directors to direct their attention to escalation in overtime and compensatory time.

"Directives have been issued prohibiting the incurring of overtime and compensatory time and in turn we have increased employment as a strategy to curb the overtime and compensatory time practice. It appears that some of you have not taken seriously our call to control overtime."

In early January the governor issued a stern warning about enforcing compensation and leave time statutes, noting that the report from the Treasurer on ASG’s accrued compensation liability attributed to the accumulation of annual leave, sick leave, and compensatory time has been very disconcerting. Lolo pointed out that he’s puzzled by the revelation that some of the employees have accumulated annual leave in excess of 1,000 hours along with compensatory time accumulation dating back to 1999.

In this latest letter the governor noted that each Director is accordingly supposed to take steps to reduce overtime and compensatory time within the parameters prescribed by law. "To this end you must let employees take time off in lieu of payment to reduce accumulated compensatory time as well as overtime."

"The policy has been issued requiring pre approval of overtime and compensatory time before they are incurred," he said.

The governor told his cabinet members that each Director will be held financially responsible if adherence to the policy is circumvented, and by the close of fiscal year 2014, only legally approved overtime and compensatory time balances will be allowed to be carried forward in the system in the following fiscal year.

Lolo said to Directors, "latitude has been afforded to all of you" to establish new positions to address the workload precipitating the need for people to work overtime and accrue compensatory time.

He added, "There are many residents of American Samoa struggling to find jobs, and the quality of the work suffers when employees are required to work overtime or compensatory time.

In his letter sent early in January to Directors and Agency Heads Lolo pointed out that his administration has failed to enforce these laws and "it is time for strict enforcement. Each Director is to take every step to review all existing annual leave, sick leave and compensatory time and come up with an appropriate strategy to reduce all accrued leave, while at the same time complying with the existing laws."

"I will expect that this desired outcome will be fully complied with before the beginning of the next fiscal year," Lolo said.

He also asked that each department and agency provide the plans for his review, however the director bears the "full burden of resolving this challenge within your respective organizations."

Lolo warned that all excess annual leave, sick or compensatory time will not be carried beyond October 1, 2014.

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