Cabinet meeting emphasizes ASG cost containment
Direct deposits for all employees, revision of the 24-hour permit for government vehicles, ASPA rate reductions, ASPA BLAST project, and accurate time keeping were some of ASG's cost containment and reduction issues discussed during the cabinet meeting held last Friday, at the Department of Agriculture conference room.
Acting Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga urged directors to be mindful of the Administration’s first 100 days report, noting the report is mandated, with each director to include what they have done to tackle cost containment issues, like DOE Director Dr. Salu Hunkin Finau, who has written to Bluesky Communications to disconnect all DOE cell phones.
“That is the type of initiative that each director should look into,” Lemanu stated.
Two government agencies gave presentations during the meeting —American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) and the American Samoa Tele Communications Authority (ASTCA).
The next cabinet meeting was announced to be held in two weeks at the American Samoa Community College.
“We are being used as a collection agent by these private businesses and we’re not getting paid for the service and that is the main reason why we are discontinuing these deductions,” said Deputy Treasurer Ueligitone Tonumaipe’a. He explained that currently it takes up to four days to process the payroll because of all the deductions, yet it should only take one day.
However, he said, the government will still be deducting with regular payroll taxes, for Retirement, Red Cross, USDOE Student loan, garnishments (court order), LBJ, ASTCA, ASPA, SBA loans and USDA loans.
The deductions they are discontinuing are bank deductions with BOH and ANZ Bank as well as life insurance companies. (Samoa News understands this includes deductions for finance companies, such as those that lend money to ASG employees; but it was not specifically mentioned by the Deputy Treasurer during the cabinet meeting.)
Tonumaipe’a pointed out, the government is not going to discontinue direct deposits and urged that every government employee should have their biweekly paycheck direct deposited. “It’s cheaper for the government, paperless and you don’t have to stand in line to cash your check,” said Tonumaipe’a.
Lemanu emphasized the importance of direct deposits for all government employees and it’s something they are looking into, given that there will be only one bank and ASG employees should not be standing in line all at one time.
Lemanu said, they will meet with Treasury next week, to come up with better ways to address government issues and at the same time help the people.
Regarding reservists working for the government, Lemanu points out that there is a Federal Law that allows the reservist time off.
“We have to give them time off if they show up with their orders… and I only ask the reserve commanders to give the government ample time to find replacements to serve our mission as the government, and at the same time… it’s a must, to give time for the soldiers to do what they have to do.”
ASG VEHICLE POLICY STILL VIOLATED
There are still violations of government vehicles after hours and there are numerous complaints from the public about the issue, also there are a lot of vehicles that were impounded and they are displayed at the Fagatogo malae.
“Directors, the policy is when your department vehicle is impounded that you have to come and see me so we can sit down and talk why this is happening and then a form will be signed, which you have to take to the police station in order for your [department] vehicle to be released,” said Lemanu, adding that they are currently working on a form, where the director would be the one to assign the 24hr permit to his/her staff for emergencies only.
ASPA Chief Executive Officer Utu Abe Malae led the authority’s presentation — a summary of their efforts to date. A handout was passed out of the first phase of reduced rates from ASPA, which Samoa News had reported on last week.
Utu reported they have a few more days before they finalize the rate reduction on electricity rates, major ASPA problems in Manu’a, with generators and water supplies, which ASPA has been working on in the past two weeks, and “we will also be heading to Aunu’u island after they complete Manu’a work.”
He further explained that the bulk of the work ASPA is doing… is mainly on Tutuila, such as the cable project with ASTCA and the new road project with Public Works.
Utu also told Dr. Hunkin Finau they are looking at installing debit meters in each school and they are working on the proposal to be sent to the governor and lieutenant governor.
He gave assurances the fee reductions would remain along with reduction of electricity rates, and it’s not something temporary.
Aleki Sene, Sr., ASTCA CEO conducted a power point presentation explaining the BLAST (Broadband Linking the American Samoa Territory) project, which is funded by the U.S. government as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
He explained that BLAST will replace ASCTA’s deteriorating legacy copper infrastructure with a robust and weather durable Next Generation Network (NGN) that will be delivered over fiber optic cables linking the islands in the territory, and making it possible to provide true broadband services to every household, business and critical institution throughout the territory.
The objective of ASTCA is to complete the BLAST project within the approved budget of $95,496,763 ($91,034,763 USDA loan plus grant with balance made up of ASTCA matching funds — $4.462Mil) with the completion date of September 15, 2015.
Sene Sr. also noted that ASTCA, through the BLAST project, is stimulating the American Samoa economy by utilizing available skilled labor in American Samoa.
The Audit office is asking each department for accurate time keeping, because they are having difficulty reconciling payroll payments of employees to their time cards. Lemanu urged each director to look at this area.
Lemanu also noted that each department must keep their workplace clean; and there are still government employees who are smoking in government cars, which is not allowed.
THE NEW COMMENTS PROCESS
To make comments, you will need to register. You can register under your real name or use a 'screen' name. This way, people will be able to follow comments and make comments back and forth to each other. If you choose to use a 'screen name' no one will know your true identity. In either case, no email addresses will be available to anyone. It is an automated process. If you have questions, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You currently are not logged in, please LOGIN to post comments.