The recent beautification clean-up that was carried out by private landscaping businesses covering the areas from Fatu-ma-Futi to Avau and from Leloaloa to the Pago Plaza has raised a lot of questions, including where the money came from to pay these businesses and why there was a need to hire them to carry out work usually conducted by the Department of Public Works and the village mayors.
Can someone clarify this? I’m just asking… a Samoa News reader said.
Samoa News responds:
According to a reliable government source, the massive beautification clean-up was contracted out to nearly a handful of private landscaping companies by order from the Governor’s Office. (Attempts to get comments from the Governor’s Executive Assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira have been unsuccessful).
The project only took a couple of days and amounted to an estimated $40,000 in total invoices paid out to the private companies. The money came from the Road Maintenance Fund which is funded with 10-cents from the fuel excise tax. The Fund was taken from under the control of the Department of Public Works three years ago and was transferred to the ASG Treasury Department by then ASG Treasurer and now Senator, Magalei Logovi’i. Magalei said the reason for the transfer was because the previous DPW director used the account to purchase three DPW trucks, one of which he used, and to pay salaries for employees.
The Road Maintenance Fund, according to testimony from Public Works Director Faleosina Faiai Voigt before a Senate hearing earlier this year, is the only source of funding for road repairs. Although the Federal Highway Administration provides funding for road projects in American Samoa, it does not provide money for road maintenance and/or repairs. Because of this, many residents are questioning the administration’s decision to use money from the Fund to pay for private businesses to mow the grass and pick up trash along the roadside, when the territory is littered with potholes and deteriorating roads that need immediate repairs.
Samoa News has learned that the project was contracted out to different local companies to “help them out” during these tough times, and to expedite the beautification efforts in preparation for the youth summit that was hosted in the territory earlier this year.
But the explanation does not sit well with several people who contacted the Samoa News and wondered why the work was contracted out to local businesses when it is the workers of Public Works who usually mow the grass and pick up trash in the same areas.
“DPW employees get paid to do the job so why do we need to pay private businesses to do the same thing?” asked one local resident. “Now we are just throwing money away, since DPW employees are getting paid anyway, while private businesses are doing the job for them and getting paid to do it. Essentially, we are paying twice for the same job.”
One local resident pointed out that during the Pacific Arts Festival held in the territory five years ago, it was Public Works who spearheaded and carried out beautification work along the roadside throughout the territory.
“Why should we believe that DPW can’t do the job this time around?” asked a senior government employee. “Like the old saying goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
According to the fiscal year 2013 budget document, $600,000 is budgeted for the Road Maintenance Fund, with some $15,000 for “personnel costs” and the rest for materials and supplies, equipment and other expenditures. The budget does not show if any — or how many — “personnel” are to be paid with the Fund.
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