Senate confirms Faleosina Voight as Director of Public Works
In a 13-1 vote, the Senate yesterday confirmed the nomination of Faleosina Voight as the new director of the Public Works Department. She goes before a House confirmation hearing today followed by the full membership vote.
Voight’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Public Works Committee lasted for about 15-minutes due mainly to the fact that many of questions on roads in the territory and other DPW related matters had already been discussed during a committee hearing Monday this week.
An interesting question raised by Sen. Leatualevao S. Asifoa during the hearing was the total amount of the bond required to be posted by Whitehorn Construction, contractor for the $7 million Airport Road reconstruction project, funded by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.
Voight said there are two bonds— one for performance and one for labor and materials — and the overall total is also the monetary amount of the contract.
Sen. Mauga T. Asuega told the nominee that if she is fully confirmed by the Fono, she will be the first female director for this department, which has an important role in maintaining the territory’s infrastructure, especially the roads.
“Always remember the people of this territory, when you are confirmed,” said Mauga, who pointed out that as DPW director she and other heads of departments must work together with the governor in order for ASG to achieve its goals in moving forward.
Committee vice chairman Sen. Nua Saoluaga urged Voight to look at the reconstruction and rebuilding of the Ta’u Harbor in Manu’a if she is fully confirmed by the Fono. He said the Ta’u Harbor,when fully operational, can bring prosperity and richness to Manu’a as well as all of American Samoa in areas of economic development.
Once the nominee left the Senate chamber, Sen. Tuiasina S. Esera voiced his disappointment with Nua, for not being given a chance to raise a new question and concern with the nominee. Tuiasina said he personally witnessed on Tuesday a DPW crew member working on the road filling potholes wearing only a lavalava and slippers. He said he even saw a person without shoes or slippers.
He said this is a serious safety issue, especially under federal law which calls for the safety of workers at all times under provisions of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“I wanted to ask if Public Works has a safety officer” to ensure the safety of ASG workers, he said, and reiterated that his major concern is the safety of workers making sure that they wear the necessary gear or outfits when working in these types of jobs.
Nua agreed with the safety concern, saying that if a worker is hurt on the job, that will result in a lawsuit against the government.
However, he noted that once the nominee is fully confirmed by the Fono, she can be called back to the Senate, because there are other issues to be discussed as well as this safety issue. He apologized to his colleague for the oversight.
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