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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Am. Samoa Education Department Hires Unqualified Employees Human Resources warns department about unapproved overtime

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Nov. 26, 2015) – ASG Dept. of Human Resources is warning The Dept. of Education about hiring individuals that DHR deems as unqualified while also citing the department is turning in timecards with unapproved overtime.

"It has come to our attention upon further review that your agency and assigned personnel has elected to hire employees who were interviewed and deemed not qualified as instruction educators," Human Resources Deputy Director, Eseneiaso Liu wrote to the Director of Education, Dr. Vaitinasa Salu Hunkin Finau in a letter leaked to Samoa News.

Liu informed the DOE Director that the "correspondence (November 12, 2015) respectfully serves as our official notification to condemn the prohibited practice of direct placement of prospect employees without our concurrence or authorization."

The HR deputy director stated the issue at hand is that the Department of Education and DHR are following a consensual agreement to support the efforts of DOE to fill the need for qualified teachers by using recruitment protocols to facilitate the Emergency Hire and placement of qualified candidates.

"It remains unfortunate that support personnel within your agency have created interview forms and publication that is proprietary to this office in the administration of our functional services for DOE use without our approval and poses significant employment liability to the American Samoa Government," Liu pointed out to Vaitinasa

"ASAC §4.0311(c)(1) provides that, "When a state of emergency is declared and requires the immediate service of a person or persons, the department head may request that an emergency appointment be made. Justification for the emergency must be submitted to and approved by the Director of Human Resources prior to any personnel action."

She further stated that DOE since July in conjunction with DHR has collaborated to address these vacancies and created a list of qualified candidates from the DHR pool of employment registrar.

"To deviate from this approved listing is a blatant disregard of procedural requirements and subject to severe disciplinary action," Liu wrote.

TIMECARDS

Another issue that was addressed to the DOE Director last month was for Vaitinasa’s support and leadership to rectify the failure of the DOE to submit timecards for School Lunch Personnel that were authorized to engage in primary duties during late night hours without "clocking-in" at their workplace.

This letter was sent to Vaitinasa by Human Resources Director, Sonny L Thompson, who noted the USDOL District Director has brought this issue to the forefront while DHR had no knowledge or awareness of the situation.

"As you are aware, the Governor as part of his Cost-Containment Policy designated this office for the evaluation and pre-approval of all Overtime work. This mitigation strategy was implemented to maintain control over the unnecessary incurrence of Overtime costs."

According to Thompson, DOE continues to operate and incur Overtime without coordination or approval from the Governor or DHR Director. He gave examples; "We recently received submission of Transportation Overtime in a letter dated May 4, 2015 and were delayed in submission by former Deputy Director Aab for lack of funding. However, it remains the responsibility of DOE to submit these timecards in a timely manner so the ASG can acknowledge and credit their Compensatory Time in lieu of cash payment.

These challenges continue to plague operational continuity for failure of oversight and administration." Thompson stated that their office implemented policies and control measures surrounding the pre-approval of Overtime to limit the government’s liability exposure for under-reporting and insufficient timekeeping practices. "This delay raises serious concerns by this office and our federal counterparts as it constitutes ‘willful violation’ with additional citations to include but not limited to back pay and liquidated damages."

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