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Lolo Moliga questions timing of today's SIC hearing

SIC chairman: “There is no political agenda…”
fili@samoanews.com

Development Bank of American Samoa (DBAS) president Lolo M. Moliga has raised concerns over the timing of the Senate Investigative Committee’s probe into the federal Section 1602 program administered by DBAS, while also calling for the SIC chairman to recuse himself so the hearing can be ‘fair and impartial’.

The SIC committee hearing is set for this morning to hear testimony from Lolo and Pat Galeai, executive director of the American Samoa Economic Stimulus and Recovery Office (ASESRO) regarding federally funded Section 1602 program.

Responding to the SIC subpoenas served on him on June 20, Lolo reminded Lualemaga that he has already submitted his letter of resignation as bank president to the governor and the DBAS board effective the end of this month.

“Thus, I am concerned about the timing of the SIC subpoena, especially given my candidacy for governor of American Samoa,” Lolo wrote in his June 25 letter to Lualemaga with copies to SIC members.

As a former Senate President, Lolo said he is “also concerned about certain political forces trying to undermine DBAS efforts” to successfully implement this program “which has been a blessing for our territory and people.”

According to the DBAS president, he will honor any validly issued SIC subpoenas and “will testify in a legally conducted SIC hearing.” However, he has his own request for the SIC’s approval.

“Since I and DBAS have denied your various requests in the past for DBAS not to pursue your delinquent DBAS charged off loan, I... request that you remove yourself as chairman of the SIC hearing on this matter so the hearing can be fair and impartial,” said Lolo, who points out that any and all SIC hearings are governed by the Code of Fair procedures under local law.

Lolo also requested thirty more days to provide the numerous copies of the documents relating to this program, saying that the subpoenas were received on June 20 while the hearing is set for June 27. He did say that DBAS will be able to provide copies of some of the subpoenaed documents by today as well as a summary of the program which DBAS provided to the House of Representatives early this year.

Lolo explained that copies of documents subpoenaed have already been provided during a period of many weeks by DBAS to the ASESRO and the U.S. Treasury Department, which agencies pre-approved each disbursement and drawdown of grant funds for the 132 project owners under this program.

SIC CHAIRMAN REPLY

Lualemaga yesterday afternoon responded to Lolo’s letter, saying this program has had a significant impact on the territory and most probably will continue to have a major impact for years to come.

“Quite simply, a majority of the SIC members felt it is a timely, legitimate area worthy of review by the SIC,” said Lualemaga, who points out that the subpoenas were approved, issued and served for the hearing.

He said the 1602 program is but one of several areas the SIC is looking into and other issues have being identified for inquiry.

“You suggested that there is some type of political agenda attached to this issue and you refer to ‘certain political forces trying to undermine DBAS efforts’ to successfully administer and manage the program,” said Lualemaga. “SIC’s concern is transparency and accountability for the program which are the guiding principles it follows in other areas of inquiry.”

As to the question on the timing of the hearing, Lualemaga said, “I am somewhat puzzled by those statements in that I fail to see how a hearing prior to the effective date of your resignation versus a hearing following your resignation changes how the program was administered by DBAS during your tenure as president.”

According to the SIC chairman, “There is no political agenda associated with the SIC’s selection of the 1602 program for review.”

“Next, you choose to bring up a wholly irrelevant matter regarding a deceased’s house located on Lualemaga family land as a basis that I should remove myself as chairman of the SIC hearing on the 1602 program, alleging that I somehow bear some ill will towards you and DBAS and therefore, cannot be fair and impartial,” said Lualemaga.

He informed Lolo that this issue — the deceased’s house — was resolved by the High Court “in my favor with dismissal of all DBAS’ claims and, as far as I am concerned, is concluded and does not provide any basis for my removal as chairman.” 

The letter states that Lualemaga also attached to his letter a certified copy of the dismissal of all claims with prejudice.

Lualemaga also stated that the decisions of SIC are determined by a majority of its members, “who, as senators, are strong-willed and independent thinkers, not subject to my control.”

As for the second request for another 30 days extension to fully comply with subpoena documents, Lualemaga said he agrees that it does require production of numerous documents and it’s not his intention, nor SIC to overly burden DBAS and its staff.

Lualemaga also acknowledged that a substantial number of documents have already been provided electronically. He said the decision on this matter will be left up to the SIC membership, who “will look forward” to seeing Lolo at today’s hearing.



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