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Samoa Under the Sailing Gods



The Administrator had already requested the Reform Government to appoint experts to inquire into the finances and staffing of the Samoan Administration. The Public Service Commissioner, the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary of External Affairs were appointed: all permanent officials in New Zealand.

While they were engaged on this work, the Reform Party was swept from office by a General Election, and a Liberal Ministry formed under Sir Joseph Ward.

On the completion of the report concerning the Samoan Administration, the new Government saw fit—possibly with the idea of damaging their political opponents—to make public a Bowdlerized edition of it: a thing which the Reform Party admittedly never would have done.

The expurgated report ran as follows:

"Wellington, N.Z., "15 January, 1929.
"1.According to instructions, we left New Zealand by the Tofua on the 3rd November, 1928, arriving at Apia on the 16th idem, and immediately commenced our inquiries. The Administrator intimated to us his grave concern in respect of the matters referred to, and stressed his desire that our inquiries should be as complete as possible.
"2.Speaking generally, our considered opinion, after page break
Military Police in Samoa

Military Police in Samoa

page 253investigation, is that the Public Service of Western Samoa, including the Reparation Estates, requires immediate reorganization, and that the finances are in an unsatisfactory position. In our opinion there are a number of causes contributing to this state of affairs:
  • "(a) The absence of any definite system of recruitment has necessarily led to a type of official of a lower grade than we are accustomed to in New Zealand:
  • "(b) The Service has for a long period been cut off from contact with the New Zealand or any other Service, and, in common with any organization similarly isolated, has inevitably deteriorated:
  • "(c) The direction of the various departmental services has fallen into the hands of men without adequate departmental training and experience:
  • "(d) The enervating effect of the tropics also cannot be ignored. It is clear that many officers have served in Samoa for too lengthy a period.
"3.Whatever the causes may have been, we are entirely satisfied that the Samoan Service as it exists to-day is by no means creditable to New Zealand, and that urgent and drastic action is necessary to improve the position."

There followed the most scathing indictment of practically every branch of the Administration, of which that regarding the Native Office is of particular interest:

"While this is undoubtedly a highly important branch of the Administration's activities, we do not feel that as at present organized it is an efficient instrument, or that it is conducted with a due regard for economy. The head of the Department, Mr. Lewis, was formerly a Missionary; and, while we appreciate the fact that probably from this source only has it been possible in the past to obtain the services of a man of high character with a sufficiently complete knowledge of the Native language, we are convinced that recruiting from this source is not entirely satisfactory…."

It was suggested that somebody be obtained from New Zealand.

Regarding the finances of the country the experts stated that a borrowing policy had been adopted, which resulted in page 254the growth of a public debt from nil in 1920 to approximately £160,000 at March 31, 1928, and.£173,200 on September 30, 1928, imposing on an already overloaded Budget an additional burden of approximately.£12,500 for interest and sinking-fund charges.

Loan or capital money they found had been used to meet current expenditure. And notwithstanding regular annual assistance from New Zealand, the expenditure exceeded revenue for four out of five years 1923-24 to 1927-28 (General Richardson's regime).

New Zealand, they pointed out, had contributed financial assistance to Western Samoa since the inception of the civil administration to the extent of £212,000. And in addition to this a large amount had been contributed indirectly through what was regarded as irregular Reparation Estates activities on behalf of the Administration.

Insufficient attention, it was determined, had been paid to the control over expenditure, and generally the economic result of many activities entered into had received little if any consideration.

Recourse had even been had to temporary borrowing from the Public Trust and Post Office Savings Bank money and other funds without proper authority.

The finances of the Reparation Estates and Administration proved inextricably mixed. The Board of Control of the Reparation Estates had been ineffective.

They referred, with regard to the Estates, to many opportunities for fraud and peculation, and spoke most severely regarding the perquisites and defaultations of many officials.

The full report—which has never been made public—was approved by Colonel Allen.