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ASSAC nixes CPO’s voluntary withdrawal claim

fili@samoanews.com

American Samoa Services Associate Corporation (ASSAC) says it has not voluntarily withdrawn its proposal for the call center project as local acting CPO Ivy Taufa’asau says it did, becausethe territorial government didn’t even ‘mention the possibility’ of a 50/50 match fund requirement, until months after it had submitted its proposal.

The company’s vice president, John R. Dwyer Jr., was responding to a Samoa News story last Friday, in which Taufa’asau is quoted saying that she had received letters from American Pacific Resources Inc. and ASSAC withdrawing from the project and both companies “cited the 50% matching requirement as the reason”.

Taufa’asau wrote separate letters last week Monday to the two companies acknowledging receipt of their letters “and acceptance of your voluntary withdrawal.” The project, overseen by the Department of Human Resources (DHR), is funded with the National Emergency Grant (NEG).

However, in a Dec. 9 letter, Dwyer informed Taufa’asau that ASSAC “has and does NOT ‘voluntarily withdraw’ its ‘Proposal for the Development of a Call Center Training Facility in  American Samoa’ dated Sept. 2, 2010.”

Dwyer made it clear to Taufa’asau that it is ASSAC’s position that after submitting its proposal for the RFP and in participating in a number of lengthy meetings with DHR director Evelyn Vaitautolu Langford and C.L. Cheshire and others over a 4-5 month period, the American Samoa Government, by its Procurement Officer, accepted ASSAC’s proposal in writing.

(Cheshire is a senior program development manager for the Pacific Business Center in Honolulu. He is providing technical assistance to ASG for tsunami related grants through a Dept. of Interior program.)

“In spite of that acceptance and its legal obligations, ASG subsequently added a ‘matching funds’ component that was not included in either ASSAC’s proposal or the extensive discussions with... Langford et. al,” he wrote to Taufa’asau.

“Thus, please do ‘not’ consider ASSAC’s action as a voluntary withdrawal of its proposal or its rights under its agreement with ASG,” he said in the letter, which was copied to Langford and Cheshire.

In October this year, ASSAC president Mark Hunsaker informed Langford that the company has pulled out of the project and operations in the territory because their pre-contract expenditures will not qualify for the 50/50 match requirement. (See Samoa News Nov. 7 story  for specific details on www.samoanews.com)

In a Dec. 12 letter to Samoa News following the story last Friday, Dwyer explained what he calls the “actual facts”, saying that it was months after ASSAC submitted its proposal before ASG officials “even mentioned the possibility of a 50/50 matching requirement.”

“That requirement resulted in a series of extended meetings and discussions between ASSAC and ASG officials beginning in early 2011,” he said. “At all times throughout those discussions, ASSAC made it clear that ASSAC was not willing to agree to this new ‘matching funds’ requirement.”

At the conclusion of those discussions, in September 2011, Taufa’asau accepted ASSAC’s proposal in writing, he noted.

“Subsequently and in spite of that formal acceptance, Ms. Taufa’asau materially changed the substance of the agreement and advised ASSAC that it must meet the 50/50 matching funds requirement,” he claims.

“From the outset, it has been ASSAC’s consistent position that it is unwilling to proceed or to recognize ASG’s additional 50/50 cost sharing requirement that was part of neither ASSAC’s proposal nor ASG’s acceptance,” he said, adding that ASSAC’s proposal for the project was accepted by ASG on Sept. 26, 2011.

Dwyer also emphasized to Samoa News that ASSAC “has not and does not voluntarily withdraw” its Sept. 2, 2010 proposal, which was accepted by ASG on Sept. 26, 2011.

Taufa’asau has responded to Samoa News recent questions on the 50/50 matching fund based on Dwyer’s letter and Langford has yet to reply to Samoa News questions on whether the matching fund requirement was ever discussed with the vendors who submitted proposals for this project.

Samoa News understands that the matching fund requirement was always part of the federal Workforce Investment Act and that the 50/50 match only applies if the company doing the training is also the one doing the hiring. A company that just does training does not have to come up with a match. It’s also understood that the governor could have applied for a reduction in the match — down to 10 percent- but he chose not to.

Hunsaker told Samoa News last month that “we understand from an email, Dave Haleck — one of our shareholders — received from C.L. Cheshire, that Langford had approached the Governor... and requested that he initiate a waiver of any further matching investment by ASSAC in order for ASSAC to receive the NEG grant.”

“It is our understanding that the Governor declined that request,” said Hunsaker.

ASSAC OFFERED THREE LEVELS OF TRAINING

Responding to Samoa News questions for more information and clarification, Dwyer reiterated yesterday that there were “numerous discussions and negotiations” with ASG representatives of this project.

“Ultimately, ASSAC was asked to submit its Final and Best Offer. ASSAC did so, and based on the prior negotiations, ASSAC provided three levels of training it was willing to perform:  750 students, 1000 students, and 1500 students,” he said via e-mail from Honolulu yesterday. “ASG had the right to select one of these three; but each level related to a very specific budget and cost that was included in the Final and Best Offer.”

Then on Jun. 3 this year, he said, ASSAC was advised by ASG that the Federal National office responsible for the NEG had approved ASSAC's concept for this new industry and its Proposal for the training. 

“After further discussions with the ASG representatives, we understood that an entity named American Pacific Resources would also be involved in a separate training activity in American Samoa, but that it would be under the same NEG grant,” he said. “That was acceptable to ASSAC, because ASG could choose any one of the three levels of training pursuant to the budget that related to the level chosen by ASG.”

“Thus, the September 26, 2011 acceptance letter from Ms. Taufa'asau established all of the key or material terms and budgets for the agreement for the training service/work that ASSAC had agreed to perform,” he points out.

“ASSAC has not voluntarily withdrawn from that Agreement. That is to say, after ASG agreed to the terms, ASG unilaterally added a new and unacceptable term: a 50/50 matching funds requirement,” he stated.



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