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Fono in Review

reporters@samoanews.com

SENATE

FALETAGOA’I TUIOLEMOTU SELECTED AS LEALATAUA COUNTY SENATOR

Two days after the High Court declared Lealataua County senatorial seat vacant, the county council’s traditional leaders have again selected Faletagoa’i I. Tuiolemotu to the territorial Senate.

A county meeting was held Thursday evening in Se’etaga village to again select a senator and the meeting didn’t take long before the final decision “was again made” that Faletagoa’i is the senator for the next four years, according to eyewitnesses who attended the gathering.

Witnesses say traditional chiefs of the county’s two subdivisions, Tapuaiga and Samatua, were well represented at the meeting, where Faletogo Taliloa addressed the gathering about past issues and concluded with his blessings offered to Faletagoa’i as the county’s senator.

Faletogo filed a complaint in court last December claiming that he was duly selected during a Dec. 8 county meeting and requested that the court invalidate the county’s selection of Faletagoai, who was sworn into office on Jan. 3 this year, along with the rest of the new senators for the current Legislature.

However, the court ruled that the Lealataua County seat was still vacant and returned the matter back to county council traditional leaders for final resolution.

Lealataua’s decision is now going through the usual process of having it certified by the county chief, or fa’alupega — in accordance with the constitution — and then transmited to the Office of Samoan Affairs, with the proper documents and certification. They are then submitted to the Senate President’s Office.

See last Friday’s edition of Samoa News for more details of the court’s decision.

(The original Samoan version of this story was published in the Samoa News weekend edition of To’asavili.)

HOUSE

POLICE AND PARTNERSHIPS

Rep. Taotasi Archie Soliai says the number of robberies and burglaries have increased and often occur in the Nu’uuli and Tualauta areas, and he has asked DPS Commissioner Haleck if the police are willing to work hand in hand with the village police and other community partnerships to combat the situation.

Haleck said this is definitely something he supports but added that they do have limited resources and _he wants the community to police their own villages, protect their livelihood and properties, and help the police do their work.

Taotasi said DPS should work with the Criminal Justice Planning Agency to gather resources. He said enforcement will be more effective if DPS facilitates them.

DOC ISSUES

Vice Speaker I’aulualo Faafetai Talia told Department of Commerce director Keniseli Lafaele during his confirmation hearing last week that submitting DOC issued economic reports to the Fono, whether it be quarterly, semi-annually, or annually would make it easier for policy making with regards to the economic development of the territory. He said it appears the only time the government moves in to help small businesses is when grant money comes in.

In response to Rep. Faimealelei Allen’s question about what changes he has in mind for DOC, Lafaele said the first thing he’d do is review the qualifications of the personnel and try to stick people in areas where their expertise can be better utilized. He said some people can’t perform because they are doing unfamiliar work.

Rep. Fagasoaia Lealaitafea advised Lafaele not to make any big changes until he first looks at his employees’ performance, saying if people are doing their jobs right and diligently, even though they lack the qualifications, they should be left alone.

I’aulualo said the territory is a small place and the business license process is “very tedious.” He urged Lafaele to find ways to make the process easier. When the same issue was raised in the Senate, Lafaele told senators that DOC is working on finalizing a proposal that will go to the governor for review and then be transmitted to the Fono for consideration, which will cut down waiting time.

DPS QUARTERLY REPORTS

Rep. Taotasi reminded the DPS Commissioner that they need to turn in their quarterly performance reports, as all departments are mandated to turn these in to the Fono. He said this is a 'good tool' for lawmakers so they can be up-to-date with how each department is doing throughout the year.

Taotasi told Haleck to look into the Territorial Audit Office's report for the Office of Motor Vehicles, saying he's not sure if it is completed as it is yet to be made public, but he knows there were issues regarding the issuance of driver's licenses which raised red flags not only for the Department of Homeland Security but also the Fono.

FBNMS, COASTAL MANAGEMENT, CORAL REEF

Rep. Larry Sanitoa has asked Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources director Dr. Ruth Matagi Tofiga to look into bringing the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Coastal Management Program and the Coral Reef Program out from under the Department of Commerce and putting them instead under the umbrella of DMWR.

Sanitoa voiced his opinion during Tofiga’s confirmation hearing last week. He rreferred to Title 24 of the American Samoa Code Annotated establishing the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources which is empowered to manage, protect, preserve, and perpetuate the marine and wildlife resources in the Territory of American Samoa.

He said it only makes sense for the FBNMS, the Coastal Management Program, and the Coral Reef Program to fall under DMWR, so they can collaboratively focus on a consistent plan to address fisheries management, giving DOC the chance to seriously focus on economic development.

RANDOM DRUG TESTING FOR ASG WORK FORCE

During his confirmation hearing, DPS Commissioner Haleck said random drug testing for DPS employees, as well as the entire government workforce “is a must.” Haleck was responding to questions from Rep. Maugaoalii Leapai Tusipa Anoai who wanted to know Haleck’s views on random drug testing for the police force.

Haleck said jobs in the US require random drug testing and the same thing should apply here, but the tests shouldn’t be limited to just DPS employees, but should include every ASG worker.

TERRITORIAL AUDIT REPORT

Rep. Taotasi said during the regular session last Friday that the Fono has yet to receive a copy of an annual report from the Territorial Audit Office. Territorial Auditor Bob Dantini resigned in December last year and has since moved off island.

The Ituau faipule wanted to know where the report, if there is one, has gone. He referred to Title 4 which mandates the TAO to submit to the governor and the Fono an annual audit report, which details audit findings for all government departments.

Samoa News understands Dantini resigned following a review meeting with the Gov. Lolo M. Moliga and Lt. Gov. Lemanu P. Mauga transition team, which among issues raised questioned his commitment to training Samoans in the office to do the work. Late last year, Dantini had said that TAO’s findings were turned over to then Gov. Togiola Tulafono.



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