Tiaotalaga John Kruse is new CPO
Long time business owner Tiaotalaga John E. Kruse is the new ASG chief procurement officer, overseeing the Procurement Office after he was yesterday confirmed by the Senate in a unanimous 17-0 vote, the House approved the nomination last Friday in a 14-2 vote.
Among the issues raised with Tiaotalaga during his confirmation hearing yesterday morning before the Senate Government Operations Committee are the nominee's plans to re-stock the supply division of Procurement Office.
Sen. Mauga T. Asuega said there were reports that Procurement Office was no longer ordering any more supplies and this is not good for the government. He wanted to know if Tiaotalaga plans to start re-ordering supplies again.
The nominee responded that as a leader, he wanted to see to it that there are sufficient supplies available for the government at the Procurement Office. He said departments may be ordering their own stocks and supplies and therefore are not following procedures in which the Procurement Office has this responsibility.
The issue regarding Procurement Office not ordering supplies surfaced more than once last year during Senate hearings, and the reason given at the time was that there was a lack of funds for such purpose. Procurement officials had testified that the only items they had on stock were paper products.
Former ASG Treasurer and now Senator, Magalei Logovi’i explained for senators and the nominee — during yesterday's hearing — that in the past years there was an inventory of supplies for ASG, but he had stopped the re-ordering of supplies due to the lack of government funds.
Magalei pointed out that this also allowed government agencies and departments to purchase directly from the private sector.
And when Procurement Office, or ASG, has sufficient funds to re-stock the Supply Division, Magalei suggested to Tiaotalaga to purchase goods and products that are not sold locally. For example, he said, plywood and lumber can be purchased from local businesses as they are also dependent on government purchases.
In other words, he said, there should be support for the local businesses.
Now that Procurement is looking at re-starting its Supply Division — which is referred to by lawmakers as the ASG store — Manu’a Sen. Nua Saoluaga wanted to know if the nominee, once fully confirmed by the Fono, had any plans to set up a similar store in Manu’a to serve that island group.
Tiaotalaga said he is looking at this issue with the possibility of working with privately owned stores in Manu’a to store and look after the goods and supplies for Procurement Office, who’ll need to work on procedures and paperwork before making any final decision.
Sen. Fa’agata Mano urged Tiaotalaga to revisit all ASG contracts, especially road projects awarded to off-island firms such as the one contracted for the Airport Road project, which has done nothing yet to fix the roads. He said all contractors should fully comply with regulations covering their contracts.
Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono added that there have been many contractors in past years that didn’t complete their projects and suggested that these types of companies should have their business licenses revoked for failure to comply with their ASG contracts.
Responding to a question by Mauga, the nominee revealed that he had been interested in a post with the Commerce Department, because of his background in the private sector and economic development.
However, he said that the governor had stated to him that Chief Procurement Officer is also closely linked to economic development. And, during the few days he has been at the Procurement Office, he can see that this post does play a role in the development of the territory’s economy.
He went on to say that the CPO’s role is always to review issues, follow the law, and make sure that contracts awarded are carried out in accordance with its provisions. He also believes in working closely with departments whose contracts are awarded through the Procurement Office, to ensure the work is completed by the contractor.
All of the senators present at the hearing urged the nominee to always be honest in his work as a cabinet member. They also wished him the best if fully confirmed by the Senate.
Sen. Leatualevao S. Asifoa made a point of saying that the nominee should resign from all his businesses in the private sector to concentrate on the new government post. He said he attended the hearing with a clear mind to vote “no” for the nominee, but after hearing testimonies as well as statements by other senators, he has changed his mind.
This brought laughter from other senators as well as the packed Senate Gallery, which included relatives and friends of the nominee, plus staff members from Procurement Office.
During last Friday’s House confirmation hearing, Tiaotalaga had said that his years of serving in the family business are over and the businesses will be left to other family members to run. He said he is ready to dedicate his life to serving the people and government of American Samoa. Since 1993, Tiaotalaga has been president and chief executive officer of Region Pac Sales & Marketing and mostly recently the president and CEO of FJ&P Kruse.
“Both of these business have flourished under Tiaotalaga’s direction, bringing many products into our local market, and making a greater selection of quality goods available to the public,” said Lolo in his Jan. 28 nomination letter to the Fono.
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