Fono in Review
FAIPULE EXPLAINS HIS NO VOTE ON COLA BILL
The House of Representatives and Senate on Wednesday approved their respective versions of the administration bill that hikes the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in the third and final reading. Both chambers will now go through the protocol of approving each other’s version before the final version goes to Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga for his signature.
The Senate unanimously approved this bill, while in the House, Representative Archie Taotasi Soliai voted no.
Taotasi explained to Samoa News that the reason for his vote was not because he does not support the COLA increase, but because he has some concerns about recent ASG employees retirement fund reports and the effect this increase will have on the fund.
“There are issues that need to be reviewed, discussed and explained not only for the benefit of the representatives that did not go to the Retirement meeting in Hawai’i, but also for the general public.
“The four critical areas that I felt need to be reviewed based on my quick review of the Actuarial report are: What is the current Funded Ratio? The report discusses the 2011 fund ratio and I think it is outdated. The contribution portion of the report shows a $632,143.00 shortage. This needs to be explained. Based on the audit reports, the fund lost $19M (change in net assets) in 2011.
“There should be some explanation to clarify why/ how this happened, he noted. And finally, in 2009, the Funded Ratio (status) was 98.9%. In 2012, it is less than 80%. WHY?
“Yes, the fund still shows solid numbers currently but as good stewards we need to be apprised of the situation that the fund is in.
“The general public has a right to know how their fund is doing, and the information should be disseminated to the public with an explanation from the caretakers/ trustees, because it’s their money.”
The bill amends the retirement payments, so that each member is to receive an annual service retirement annuity equal to 2% of the average annual salary of the member, multiplied by the total years of service up to a maximum of 30 years. This would be effective immediately and payable from Oct. 1, 2010 as applicable and this increase will not apply to retirees who have retired on or after October 2010 (currently October 2008).
PROPOSED BILL DISALLOWS RE-PRODUCTION OF ASG SEAL
Attorney General Afoa L Su’esu’e Lutu and Administrative Services head Eliki Afalava testified before the House Ways and Means committee chaired by Fatulegae’e Mauga Thursday, on the 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.
This measure was proposed by Representative Vailoata Eteuati Amituana’i. 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 Samoa News was advised to notify the offending department that their ‘seal’ was wrong.)
FAIPULE ASKS FOR CIP FUNDING TO ASSIST WITH MANU’A SCHOOLS
Representative Toeaina Faufano Autele during the house regular session on Monday, said he received a copy of the letter from Senator Nua T. Saoluaga regarding the bad conditions of classrooms in Manu’a.
He appealed to Vice Speaker of the House I’aulualo Talia Faafetai to look into this. Toeaina said, it was disgusting when he saw cockroaches on the windows of the classrooms and this is a health hazard to the students, adding it must also be a distraction for the students during class time.
Toeaina asked if there are any funds from the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) that could help with the conditions of the Manu'a schools. No reply was made available.
In his Jan. 14 State of the Territory Address, Gov. Lolo M. Moliga announced that he had reconstituted the CIP committee to review and recommend the local distribution of CIP's annual allocation from the U.S. Department of the Interior. He said the committee report will be sent to the Legislature for its consideration and approval through the Preliminary Budget document, to be sent to the Fono next month or early March.
He said the preliminary budget submission, which has not been done for years by past administrations, “is to afford the Legislature the opportunity to participate in the process of determining our capital improvement [CIP] needs and set priority. Moreover, it will also give the Legislature the chance to review federal grants prior to approval by the grantors.”
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