Lawmakers consider removing annual ASPA subsidy from local statute
There is a possible move among lawmakers to remove from local statute the annual subsidies required by the government for the American Samoa Power Authority, whose officials have stated that ASG has failed for many years to comply with this provision of the law.
Officials of the semi autonomous agency have urged lawmakers several times to revisit local law regarding the annual government subsidy for ASPA — which has not been provided since 2002 — and is now at more than $12 million.
Rep. Larry Sanitoa says that while it’s true that local statute does mandate two subsidies, including $600,000 annually for water service, in 2000, then Gov. Tauese P.F. Sunia took it out of the ASPA budget and since then it has never been reinstated.
“This action [by Tauese] was because ASPA was getting millions and millions in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for water improvement projects, as well as other grants via the U.S. Environmental Projection Agency,” said Sanitoa, who has been very vocal about his complaints over the recent hike in ASPA rates.
Sanitoa recalled his previous comments in the Fono that ASPA had a 5-year plan to address all water infrastructure improvements throughout the island by using CIP funds. “At this point nobody really knows what exactly happened to that plan,” he said, adding that he has been told that the termination of subsidy was an agreement between Tauese and the management and board of ASPA at the time.
“It is difficult for the Fono to discuss and/or debate this issue of ASG’s annual subsidy to ASPA when it is not even in the annual budget,” he said. “Given that this subsidy hasn’t been appropriated for years, the Fono will most likely look at taking it out of the statute.”
Fono staffers say they have heard lawmakers discussing the possibility of taking the subsidy out of current statute and are planning to firm this up prior to the Fono returning in January.
Local residents have told Samoa News that they have raised this same issue with their lawmakers — to take this provision out of the law, now that ASPA has no plans to halt rate hikes.