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Government of Western Samoa Report of the Commission to Inquire into and Report upon the Organization of District and Village Government in Western Samoa

(f) The Carrying-Out of Decisions

(f) The Carrying-Out of Decisions

67. When legal power is given to district and village authorities for the making of regulations, it will also be necessary to make adequate provision for the carrying-out of decisions reached, On the executive side, the work will fall far more fully on individual villages than on districts.

68. At the village level, the position of the pulenu‘u is bound to be one of central importance. As has been shown earlier in this report, the actual duties performed by the pulenu‘u at the present time in most villages are far more extensive than those which are required of him in terms of his formal appointment. The Commission considers that it is now desirable, both in the interests of effective administration and in fairness to the pulenu‘u himself, that his duties should be much more clearly defined. In the main, such a definition of the duties of the pulenu‘u should be incorporated in the legislation giving effect to our recommendations, since it will be equally applicable to all pulenu‘u. There are, however, a few matters which should be left to the discretion of individual local authorities. These should be dealt with in the proposals put forward by districts and villages.

69. In our view, the pulenu‘u should be recognized as having dual functions. He should be both the representative of the Central Government in the village and the principal executive officer of the village authority. In his first capacity, he should continue to act as registrar of births and deaths (though his responsibilities should be enlarged to include Europeans); he should furnish all other returns required by Government; and he should make all necessary arrangements for the reception of Government officers on official malaga. In matters of concern to his village, he should normally serve as the channel of communication between the Government and the village authority. In his second capacity—as executive officer of the village authority—he should be responsible for seeing that all decisions of the fono are properly carried out. Normally, he should be the leader of all committees charged with executive or supervisory functions, such as plantation committees, school committees, or committees concerned with village welfare generally. In addition, he should keep in touch with women's committees and committees of the taulele‘a through their leaders. In this matter the exact page 26 character of his responsibilities should be defined for each village separately, owing to the variation in the organization and functions of committees in different villages. In addition, he should be responsible for the keeping of village records. If our proposals are accepted, this task will become much more important. The pulenu‘u will be required to keep: (1) a full record of all regulations in force; (2) adequate accounts of all village funds; and (3) a record of all cases heard in regard to breaches of the law or regulations. In regard to the last point, the record should include a summary of the evidence as well as a statement of the verdict and of the penalty imposed. The pulenu‘u should also possess a good knowledge not only of all local regulations, but also of all Ordinances and other general laws which may be legally enforceable by the village authority. He should be supplied with copies of the latter by the Secretary of the District and Village Government Board.

70. These duties will make the work of the pulenu‘u considerably more responsible and more strenuous than it is at the present time. In order that they may be satisfactorily discharged, the Commission has two recommendations to make. First, it is necessary to make the position of pulenu‘u attractive to the most energetic matai available. To some extent the importance which the post would possess under our scheme would serve as an inducement to an able man to accept it. The primary need, however, is that of adequate remuneration. At the present time the salary of a pulenu‘u is insufficient, in the opinion of the Commission, in view of the actual duties which he is expected to perform. The need for an increase will become even greater when village authorities receive legal recognition. Such a higher salary would be an added attraction both in itself and as an indication that the office of pulenu‘u was regarded by the Government as one of key importance in the develpoment of village government.

71. The Commission has purposely avoided consideration of the actual amount which a pulenu‘u should receive. It is realized that the salary of the pulenu‘u will have to be determined in relation to that of other Government officials, whose salaries may also require raising. But certain of the general principles which should guide those who make the final decision have been considered. The Commission discussed at length the question of whether the salary of the pulenu‘u should be graded according to the population of the village. It was concluded that there were many points in favour of introducing such a graded scale; but that, on balance, the present system of a uniform rate of salary was likely to give most satisfaction. It may be possible to compensate pulenu‘u with heavier duties by giving them some form of additional assistance in carrying out their work. The Commission did, however, consider that one form of differentiation in the salaries of pulenu‘u was desirable. The salary of a pulenu‘u in a village which has received legal recognition page 27 of its authority should be higher than that of a pulenu‘u in a village which has not taken advantage of the new system. Such a difference in salaries would be both a recompense to the pulenu‘u for accepting added responsibilities and an encouragement to villages to bring their proposals for recognition before the District and Village Government Board without delay.

72. The Commission's second recommendation in regard to the position of the pulenu‘u under the proposed new organization is that he should be provided with a clerk to assist him. The clerk's duties would normally include keeping the village records and accounts up to date, helping the pulenu‘u with his official correspondence, acting as messenger, and assisting the pulenu‘u during village and plantation inspections as required. At the present time there are young men of good education in nearly all villages who could perform these duties efficiently. Owing to the close connection which the clerk would have with the pulenu‘u, it would probably be desirable to allow the latter to nominate him; but the man so chosen should not be regarded as an accredited clerk entitled to an official salary till he had been approved by the Board. Such a safeguard would be necessary to ensure that a clerk was, in fact, a man of sufficient ability and education to be able to do the work expected of him. Once he had been approved by the Board, he should be brought to Apia at the first convenient opportunity to receive instruction in the aims of the local-government set-up, in simple book-keeping, in the recording of cases tried by village authorities, and other related matters. Such a course of instruction should probably be organized once a year for clerks appointed to office for the first time during the preceding twelve months. At a later stage it would probably be found useful to arrange refresher courses, as is done for school teachers, S.M.P.s and others.

73. If these two recommendations are acted upon—the improvement in the status and salary of the pulenu‘u and the appointment and training of well-educated clerks—the foundation will have been laid of an efficient system of village administration. The basic means will have been provided for carrying into full effect the policies of the Government and of the district and village fono and for giving the people the full benefit of all progressive measures.

74. In carrying out his duties, however, the pulenu‘u will also need, and will receive, much assistance from committees. The different types of committees existing in various villages at the present time have been referred to earlier in this report. Broadly speaking, there are three kinds of committees of administrative importance found in most villages: committees of the ali‘i and faipule (which may also include one or more taulele‘a), Women's Committees, and committees of the taulele‘a. The page 28 Commission does not believe that any attempt should be made to impose uniformity upon the composition or function of committees in different villages. Villages differ in their political set-up, in their size, in their traditions, and in their present needs. What suits one village would not necessarily suit another. There are a few general observations, however, which can usefully be made.

75. Considering, first, committees of the ali‘i and faipule, it is becoming clear that under modern conditions a single village committee has difficulty in dealing with all the different matters of village administration, except in a very small village. More successful results seem generally to be obtained where there are separate committees to deal with plantation matters, support of the school, &c. Members then have sufficient time to give really enthusiastic service and to obtain a full knowledge of all problems involved. In many villages, too, advantage has been gained by including representatives of the taulele‘a on such committees. Their youth makes it easier for them to perform certain heavy tasks. Often they have more recent experience of conditions in other places, from having been away to work or to attend schools, and can give the matai the advantage of the information they have gained.

76. In regard to women's committees, the Commission has no recommendations to make. In their particular field, these committees represent a highly successful example of effective co-operation between the Central Government and the villages. Their proper functions, and the best methods of performing them, have been worked out in the course of experience. It is not necessary for them to receive any statutory recognition, as the ali‘i and faipule stand firmly behind them, and their decisions are nearly all of a kind which can be carried out by individual families on a social, rather than a legal, basis.

77. A more complex problem is presented by the organization of the taulele‘a. In Samoan custom, the position of the taulele‘a is not one of impotence or unimportance, as many Europeans have supposed. Nearly all the taulele‘a in any village stand in close family relationship to the matai. In addition to the personal links which this gives them with those who control village affairs, there are more formal ways in which their opinions tend to have an influence on the fono of ali‘i and faipule. First, there is the practice of their being present at the back of the fono house during discussions. Although they do not take direct part in the debates of the fono, their presence is itself not without influence; and often a matai may informally seek the opinion of the taulele‘a of his own aiga. Secondly, there is the organization of the taulele‘a into the aumaga. The leader of the aumaga, as the man responsible for organizing the work of the taulele‘a for the village, has frequently to be called into consultation by the ali‘i and faipule in regard to that work.

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78. In recent times, changed conditions have in some respects affected the relationship between the taulele‘a and other sections of the village. There are now other opportunities for a taule‘ale‘a besides that of remaining in his own village. In some villages the reduction in the number of taulele‘a staying at home to work on the plantations has helped to produce a new attitude of arbitrariness on the part of the ali‘i and faipule. The old custom, by which each section of the village (including the taulele‘a) was accorded its proper dignity and its proper influence, has in these cases been weakened. But such instances must not be regarded as being representative of the general position.

79. On the other hand, the composition of the aumaga itself has undergone a change. It is coming to include more and more men who have obtained useful experience outside their own village, or who have received a good education. For the services of these men the ali‘i and faipule have an increasing need. Villages are building roads and European-style buildings, maintaining water-supplies, and introducing improved methods of cultivation. In a great number of villages it has already been found that traditional methods of organizing the work of the taulele‘a require modification. Formerly, the leader of the taulele‘a was always the son of some particular chief or orator.* He was chosen, that is, because of the position of his father in the social structure of the village community. Now, in many cases, he is chosen by the ali‘i and faipule on the basis of personal capacity for leadership, regardless of the position of his matai in village affairs. Similarly, there have been developments in the actual procedure by which instructions are given to the taulele‘a by the ali‘i and faipule. The general practice is for the leader of the taulele‘a to be summoned before the fono of ali‘i and faipule to receive these instructions. In some places it is recognized practice to allow such instructions to be referred back to the fono after full discussion by the taulele‘a if they are considered unsuitable.

80. The Commission wishes to commend these useful changes. The election of a leader on the grounds of ability, and the practice of allowing the taulele‘a to ask for reconsideration of decisions directly affecting them, are both developments which fit in well with the needs of the present time. Where they operate, they are contributing towards efficient village administration generally and towards effective co-operation between the ali‘i and faipule and the taulele‘a in particular. They are developments, however, which can best be left to come about in response to the gradual change in public opinion. They should not be imposed on villages by legislative action on the part of the Government.

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81. At the district level, provision for the taking of executive action can be of a much simpler kind. The executive activities of district authorities are, in most cases, on a relatively restricted scale. In certain parts of Samoa, district fono make regulations on many subjects and deal with the more serious offences; but to a large extent they leave the carrying-out of their decisions to the individual villages. Certain important decisions of a traditional kind—such as those concerning the exclusion of a village from, or its readmission to, district affairs—have executive consequences, but they are not of a kind which requires legal notice. They belong more properly to the field of social, rather than to that of administrative, action. Executive action by districts of the kind with which we are concerned will mainly relate to matters such as the raising of money for hospitals, schools, water-supplies, local roads, or other works, and to the construction and maintenance of these works or of the services which they provide. In most cases they will be delegated by the district fono to a committee. Where district administration is well developed, as in Gaga‘emauga, the work performed by such committees may be on a considerable scale. Where it is less well developed, it is likely to grow in importance in future. Such an increase in district activities is certainly to be desired, because it will make possible a considerable improvement in services, such as education, which are of vital importance to the future welfare of Samoa. It should therefore be encouraged by every reasonable means.

82. The most important way in which the Government can give support to such examples of district co-operation, of course, is by responding sympathetically to requests for assistance for district projects. Except where a scheme put forward is impracticable on technical grounds, it is likely to be in the Government's own interests to give its support. In general, it contributes both to efficiency and economy when a number of villages work together in one organization, whether it is to support a combined school or to build and maintain a water-supply. Government support for district endeavours is therefore to be expected in most cases. There is, however, one further way in which the Government might consider providing encouragement. It is most likely that certain districts will ask for legal recognition of their district committee, as the body authorized to deal with schools, medical matters, and (in some cases) agricultural development. The Commission believes that the District and Village Government Board should deal favourably with such requests wherever possible, and recommend to the High Commissioner that the district committee be proclaimed as part of the recognized machinery of local government. Where such committees do obtain recognition, it will be worth seriously considering whether their secretaries should not be provided with an official salary in the same page 31 way as a pulenu‘u. At the present stage of development, the secretaryship of several district committees is held by S.M.P.s or, in the case of Gaga‘emauga, a Government school-teacher who is a matai of the district. These officers are already in receipt of a Government salary and are willing to perform the extra work from a desire to assist their districts. As district activities expand, however, it may become necessary to have a secretary with more time available for the work, or to provide the assistance of a salaried clerk. Provision should be made for these developments, but care should be taken not to move forward more rapidly than district opinion justifies.

83. One form of district activity requires special mention, as it has already been the subject of legislation. That is the control of water-supplies. By the Water-supply Ordinance, 1934, provision was made for the appointment of water-supply inspection committees. Such committees were to be constituted by the Administrator (now the High Commissioner), who was also to nominate the actual members. These members were to be chosen from the matai of the villages served by the particular water-supply. Their powers were to be largely limited to inspection, and, even in this matter, similar powers were vested by the Ordinance in all constables of the Police Force and in certain officers of the Departments of Public Works, Native Affairs, and Health. Regulations for the control of the water-supply and the scale of charges to be paid by users were both to be fixed by the Administrator, not by the committee. A committee constituted under the terms of this Ordinance has existed for many years past in connection with the Sagaga and Le‘auva‘a water-supply. Its history presents an unhappy example of divided control. Certain responsibilities rest with the committee, while others are vested in the Secretary of Samoan Affairs. The latter, in turn, is responsible to the Treasurer in regard to the control of funds. It is the opinion of the Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Mr. Grattan, that the methods of a local committee and a Government Department are necessarily different and that the attempt to combine the two in respect of one undertaking such as a water-supply is bound to lead to a sense of frustration on both sides. The Commission agrees with this view.

84. It is therefore recommended that the present Ordinance be wholly repealed and replaced by new legislation. It may be that in villages for some miles on either side of Apia (including those covered by the Sagaga and Le‘auva‘a scheme) the future lies in the surrender of all local control. These villages can, perhaps, best be included in a central scheme serving also the town area, though this, of course, is a matter for engineers to decide. Elsewhere in Samoa, however, the aim should be complete local control. Water-supply committees should be formed in the same way as is suggested for other village and district committees. Legislation should define generally the powers they are to possess, and page 32 the exact constitution of each particular committee should be a matter for discussion between representatives of those directly concerned and the District and Village Government Board.

85. One matter which concerns the executive side of all district and village government has not so far been touched on. That is the control of finance. District and village authorities are now handling much larger sums of money than was formerly the case. Present methods of raising funds for district or village purposes are, in general, fairly well suited to current needs; but further thought needs to be given to the manner in which money is cared for after it has been collected. A number of districts and villages have appointed as treasurers, to take charge of their funds, men who have experience of keeping accounts, such as traders and school-teachers. This development is to be commended. Legislation to implement the recommendations of the Commission should require that all proposals for legal recognition submitted to the Board by districts and villages should contain proper provision for the care of funds. In villages, the pulenu‘u would normally act as village treasurer, with the assistance of his clerk. In some cases the village might wish to appoint an additional treasurer to act jointly with him. The law should define clearly the responsibilities of those placed in charge of district or village funds, and specify the penalties to which they would render themselves liable by any misappropriation of funds under their control.

86. It would be wise to set a limit by law to the amount which could be kept in cash by any district or village authority. This cash could be kept most safely if the District and Village Government Board made arrangements to distribute cash-boxes with secure locks to all local authorities which applied for them. Money which was not to be kept in cash should be properly invested in ways which were recognized by law as offering adequate security. In practice, this would normally involve the opening of a Post Office Savings-bank account in the name of the local authority. There might be occasions, however, when some other form of investment would be preferable. For example, if a local authority was building up a large fund over a period of some years in order to undertake a major project, it might be possible to obtain larger interest by the purchase of New Zealand or other Government bonds. The Secretary of the District and Village Government Board should be prepared to obtain the advice of qualified Government officers in regard to such possibilities.

87. The final safeguard against the misuse of the funds of district and village authorities should be provided by a proper system of audit. It would probably not be economical for a Government auditor to visit each local authority, except at comparatively rare intervals. A simplified system of auditing would therefore probably be needed. The page 33 Commission would suggest to the Government for consideration that the procedure should be for an officer of the Secretariat or the Treasury to visit each district or village authority once a year for the purpose of checking and certifying the cash on hand and of forwarding the authority's books to the Audit Office in Apia. Preferably the Territory should be covered gradually over the course of the year. In that way only a small quantity of books would arrive for audit at any one time, and it would be made easier for them to be returned to their users without delay.

* In some cases the leadership might be shared between a group of taulele‘a, the sons of the holders of several important titles.