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Trial date set for company trying to collect from ASG since 1999

reporters@samoanews.com

The High Court has scheduled trial for a six-year-old lawsuit filed by Talia Toa dba International Roofing against the American Samoa Government, and the hearing, which set the trial date, was before Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond who was accompanied on the bench by Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr.

The trial is set to begin on June 27, 2012.

Talia Toa filed his complaint through his lawyer Afoa Moega Lutu on March 30, 2006 stemming from a re-roofing and renovation project contracted for the Fono building which began in 1995 which been awarded to the plaintiff in this matter.

The three-page lawsuit has it that total cost, including all change orders, was more than $495,845.50 and the government has paid to the plaintiff the amount of $378,725.00.

According to the lawsuit, the remaining balance is $117,120.50, and this amount excludes the interest that still remains owed to the plaintiff.

The lawsuit has it that the plaintiff has been trying to collect the amount of $117,120.50 since 1999 but has been unsuccessful.

According to the lawsuit the plaintiff through his lawyer wrote a letter to then Senate President Lolo Letalu Moliga demanding payment of the remaining balance owed.

In response Lolo said in his January 4, 2006 letter that after reviewing claims by the plaintiff, Lolo had met with then Legislative Financial Officer Velega Savali who approved the change order valued at $495,840.50 of which $378,725 had been paid, leaving the unpaid balance of $117,120.50.

Lolo in his letter said the issuance of the $378,725 payment provides evidence that an encumbrance account was established and the balance of $117,120.50 should have been reflected in the government’s accounting system.

The letter goes on to say that the Change order of $495,840.50 was deducted from the legislature’s budget to set up the encumbrance account for the approved obligation.

“In compliance with the Government’s financial system this encumbrance account should have been carried forward until the obligation is liquidated.” Lolo wrote.

The letter further states that assumptions were made that the balance of $117,250 remaining in the encumbrance account was returned to the General fund of the American Samoa Government, “thus, the liability rests with the Department of Treasury and not the Legislature.”

Lolo who was then Senate President in his letter stated that he does not dispute the claim because sufficient evidence existed “verifying the legitimacy of this obligation” however he contended that the matter should be pursued with the Department of Treasury because the $117,120.50 was not returned to the Legislature’s budget, that it was the Treasury department who decided to cancel the encumbrance account and de-obligate the money.

Lolo said in his letter that he was not privy to the reasons that negated the payment of the balance on the Charge Order, as he “did not see in the files a declaration of dissatisfaction with the performance of International Roofing.”

Also noted in the complaint was the fact that plaintiff’s counsel had written to the Attorney General demanding payment, and that “the present Treasurer of ASG was the point-man” of the contract, as he was the Legislative Financial Officer at the Fono “at all times relevant to this contract” and has full knowledge of the claim for non-payment. (At the time of the initial complaint, 2006, Velega Savali was the Treasurer)

Assistant Attorney General Jay Sayles, representing the defendant—ASG—in this matter, said this is a contract dispute related to work done on the Fono building in the mid to late 1990s by the plaintiff.

“At present the government is asserting that the contract and all properly approved change orders have been paid and therefore there is no outstanding balance due,” said Sayles.



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