Fono in Review
STATE SMALL BUSINESS COMMUNITY INITIATIVE
Rep. Puletuimalo Dick Koko has requested a hearing on the status of the State Small Business Community Initiative (SSBCI), a loan program for small businesses.
American Samoa was awarded $10 million under the program and the first allocation of about $3 million was drawn down early last year. However, to date, none of the money has been used due to the reluctance of the local commercial banks' to participate.
In his state of the territory address, Gov. Lolo M. Moliga said he has ordered the ASG Treasurer to work with the federal government to revise the guidelines for this particular program.
PROPOSED BILL DISALLOWS REPRODUCTION OF GOVERNMENT SEAL
Rep. Vailoata Amituana’i is sponsoring a bill that disallows the reproduction or modification of the government seal in any way, shape, or form on any item sold commercially without the written consent of the Government Secretary.
The bill went through first reading yesterday and has been assigned to the Ways and Means Committee chaired by Rep Fatulegae’e Mauga. According to the bill, anyone who violates this law would be fined $100 for the first offense and $100 for each subsequent violation.
Vailoata told Samoa News that he has seen the government seal depicted the wrong way on t-shirts, banners, and in advertisements where the staff (to'oto'o) is sometimes upside down. He said the government seal should be used with care, as it is a delicate symbol and very special.
(Samoa News notes the issue of the”upside down staff’ in the government seal was noted by the governor’s office during Gov. Togiola Tulafono’s time, in some of ASG’s advertisements, and advised us to notify the offending department that their ‘seal’ was wrong.)
AUNU’U REP TELLS ASPA THEIR SERVICES ARE TERRIBLE
Water boil notices, generators and water in Aunu’u, debit meters, disconnection of electricity, sewer lines, and ASPA providing fuel were among the issues discussed in a hearing before the House Committee on ASPA earlier this week.
Testifying during the hearing were ASPA CEO Utu Abe Malae, Power Generation Manager Ted Leiato, Transmission and Distribution Manager Sofeni Lualemaga, and CFO Susana Faiivae.
Aunu’u lawmaker Rep. Talaimatai Su'a told the ASPA officials that water circulating in Aunu’u is unsafe for consumption — it’s only good for showers and bathrooms; and when the garbage truck is down, they have to wait several days as there is only one garbage truck that picks up trash in Aunu’u.
He said sometimes Aunuu residents are told there’s a flat tire, or the truck is under maintenance and they are waiting for a mechanic. “Does it take three or four days for a mechanic to come to Aunu’u?" he asked. He said sometimes they are told the parts for the truck are being ordered and it takes 3-4 months for the parts to arrive.
Talaimatai said sometimes they end up dumping trash into the ocean or digging a hole and burying the trash there. He claims there is an ASPA employee working at the site of the Aunu’u generators but he has other duties including checking water meters, and collecting garbage.
He said the situation with power outages in Aunu’u is ridiculous, because the generators are just not up to par.
“We too would like to have a meal and say our evening prayers with the lights on,” he said. He added that in 2001, when the generators arrived in Aunu’u and were placed at the schools, he was among the people who fought to have the generators removed from campus grounds. He was a teacher at the time.
He said the generator that is currently used at Aunu’u has to be turned off when school is dismissed on a daily basis to allow the machine to cool down. Talaimatai said that while this is understandable, the generator goes off consistently and that shouldn't be the case. He told the ASPA officials that it is unclear if this is occurring because those operating the generators are not doing their job or because a new generator is needed.
Utu responded that there’s a need to improve the water and electricity service in Aunu’u and it is something he will definitely look into it. (More on the ASPA hearing in tomorrow's edition).
ASPA BUDGET SIGNED INTO LAW
Gov. Lolo M. Moliga has signed into law ASPA's FY 2013 budget in the amount of $86,592,750. This is to cover ASPA expenses for the last nine months of the current fiscal year. The Fono had only approved the first four months of ASPA's FY2013 budget during the previous legislature.
In a letter to House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale, Lolo said the assistance the bill provides to adequately fund the operations for ASPA is much needed and appreciated.
This administration bill says of the $86.59 million in the budget bill, $43.93 million goes to the electric division; $7.51 million to water division; $5.77 million for wastewater division; $3.55 million for Solid waste (trash collection) division; and $25.81 million for fuel marketing division.
The largest budget item is $53.29 million in the materials/supplies category followed by $10.59 million in contract services, however details of these expenditures were not included in the budget bill, but are expected to be submitted separately during an after-the-fact Fono review.
Funding sources come from utility rate revenues, fees, charges and grant funds identified for appropriation in ASPA’s proposed annual budget for FY 2013, according to language of the bill.
LAWSUITS AGAINST GOVERNMENT
Vice Speaker I'aulualo Tali Faafetai wants Police Commissioner William Haleck to "incorporate into his vision" as head of the Department of Public Safety, the issue of lawsuits filed against the American Samoa Government.
I'aulualo said over the past three years, there have been liability claims against ASG because of negligence and poor judgment. The Manu'a lawmaker made reference to the $6-million-dollar lawsuit involving the Laufou fire and told Haleck that the Fire Bureau was part of reason for the lawsuit and he wanted the police commissioner to look into ways of minimizing loss due to liability against the government. He said the Fono keeps coming across judgments and for the most part, they are all outstanding because there is no money.
Haleck assured the faipule that he will do his best as Commissioner to accomplish that goal before his tenure is over. He said there are issues with fire hydrants that need to be addressed, in addition to the lack of equipment and training for the staff. He said American Samoa is a small island and he doesn't see why they can't get grants for these purposes.
AUASI WHARF AND AIRPORT LODGING FOR AUNU’U RESIDENTS
Saole faipule Rep. Talaimatai Elisara Su'a has requested Port Administration director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Tuia Poumele to install a security fence, resurface the parking area and construct better bathroom facilities at the Auasi wharf to accommodate the more than 300 Aunuu residents who travel between the two islands everyday for school, work, and personal reasons.
Talaimatai told Taimalelagi that about 30 vehicles belonging to Aunu’u residents, himself included, have been vandalized and damaged while parked at the Auasi wharf.
The freshman lawmaker has also requested that Taimalelagi to set aside an area at the Tafuna Airport to accommodate Aunu’u residents during times when flights going in and out of the territory are delayed. He said there have been times when the flights are delayed for hours and local residents have the luxury of going home to rest and coming back to the airport to catch the flight. However, Aunu’u, he said, residents don't have that choice because the small boats that travel between Auasi and Aunu’u don't operate at night and the trip is just too far.
ABUSE OF POLICE VEHICLES
Rep. Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava says there are too many police cars on the road. The Leasina faipule said that while he understands the duties of police officers require them to be on patrol, he doesn't understand why there are so many cars with "PS" license plates driving around. (All cars belonging to DPS have yellow government-issued license plates starting with "PS" followed by two numbers).
Atualevao said he does not mind seeing patrol cars on the road but what he is concerned about is the high number of cars marked "PS" driving back and forth "running errands" that could be done over the phone. Atualevao told Police Commissioner William Haleck that he should look into the matter, as he considers the practice an abuse of government property.
"How can we pay for overtime for the police officers if they are abusing government property?" he asked. Atualevao told Haleck that sometimes, DPS personnel drive from the central station in Fagatogo to deliver a message to one of the substations or the TCF. He wondered why these deliveries need to take place when messages can be relayed with a simple phone call from one office location to another.
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