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Gov to appoint new ASGERF board, meeting set in HNL

fili@samoanews.com

The Governor’s Office confirmed last Thursday that Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga “will reconstitute” the ASG Employees Retirement Fund board of trustees, who will convene its first meeting later this month in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Lolo is currently in the process of identifying names for the new Retirement Fund board, said the governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, who was responding to Samoa News inquiries. The governor has not indicated who he will appoint to the new board.

According to the governor’s office the statute dealing with the Retirement Fund “needs to be amended to accommodate the changes the governor is contemplating.” Any changes to the current law will be submitted to the Fono for review and approval.

Current statute states in part that the responsibility for the proper administration of the fund and the direction of its policies shall be vested in a Board of Trustees consisting of five members: three members appointed by the Governor, who shall be members of the Fund having at least five years of service; and two members appointed by the Governor who shall not be members of the Fund. Board member nominees are subject to Fono confirmation and serve for a term of five years.

Asked what mandate the governor will give a new board, Iulogologo said, Lolo is “working on it, but the fundamental issue is to maintain the integrity of the fund and its solvency to guarantee accommodation of the needs of the retirees.”

The Retirement Fund board, chaired by Aleki Sene Sr., is scheduled to meet Feb. 20 and 21 in Honolulu with members of the Fono retirement committees invited to attend. This has been the practice every two years, when this off-island meeting is called and the trip is paid for by the Retirement Fund.

Iulogologo said there has been no discussion whether to send representation from the Governor's Office for this meeting.

Asked if the governor has received any information on the status of the fund and how much it is worth, Iulogologo said, “no”, adding that “it is hoped that the new board, once it's constituted will provide a comprehensive review of the status of the fund.”

“The meeting in Hawaii usually presents the opportunity to the fund manager and consultants to address the present and future outlook on the status of the fund. The Board had approved a 2% COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) increase for all retirement recipients.This seems to indicate that the fund is doing well as it can accommodate this new 2% COLA rise,” he said.

The COLA hike will be forwarded to the Fono for an official review and approval and Samoa News understands that this will be raised by the new board during the Honolulu meeting.

BACKGROUND

Then Gov. Togiola Tulafono signed a bill that hiked by 4% the cost of living allowance (COLA) for American Samoa Government retirees, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2011,

The law provided for the increase to those who retired on or before Sept. 30, 2008 and the payment was retroactive to Oct. 1, 2008.

The COLA rise didn't happen in 2010, because the governor didn't want to submit the 2% COLA hike recommended by the ASG Employees Retirement Fund board of trustees, saying it was not enough when looking at the current cost of living in American Samoa. Instead a new measure was submitted in February 2011 with the 4% increase.

Although the hike raised the Retirement Fund's unfunded liability to $7.2 million, board chairman Aleki Sene Sr. told senators that the board feels that, with favorable investment returns, there is no need to increase the government's contribution at this time.



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