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ASG to get HA frequent flyer miles for govn’t travel

fili@samoanews.com

A new policy that goes into effect next month calls for all government employees whose travel is paid by an ASG travel authorization (TA), and who are traveling on Hawaiian Airlines, will have those "frequent flyer" miles deposited into a corporate account to assist off-island travel for patients seeking medical treatment or students attending educational programs.
 
This new policy is applauded by Rep. Maugaoali’i Sipa Anoa’i, who has pushed for this same policy in previous legislatures, but failed to muster support from the government or his colleagues.
 
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga announced this new Policy on Frequent Flyer Mileage, which is effective June 1, in a memo this week to directors of ASG departments and agency directors. The memo, however, didn’t say that this same policy includes travel for the Fono, whose budget is 100% funded by local revenues.
 
Lolo said Hawaiian Airlines has “graciously accepted” his request to establish a corporate account into which all frequent flyer millage awards for all TA travel will be deposited, and will be used to help patients referred off-island for medical treatment, or to assist travel for students attending educational programs off island.
 
The governor acknowledged that some may view this policy as unfair but said it is “morally wrong” for a government employee to gain further benefits from the privilege gained by virtue of his or her employment with ASG.
 
“We have a moral responsibility to help out those of our people who, not by any fault of theirs, find themselves in situations where outside assistance is needed,” said Lolo. “The added benefit provided by the frequent flyer millage award should be shared with those of our community who are truly impoverished and destitute.”
 
According to the memo, Treasury Department’s TA section will assume the responsibility to make sure that frequent flyer millage awarded on TA travel will be deposited in the corporate account established by Hawaiian Air.
 
For the time being and until policies are established to regulate the distribution of the frequent flyer millage benefits, Lolo says his signature will be required for every transaction which would access the mileage account.
 
Some four years ago, Maugaoali’i introduced during two separate bills that would transfer frequent flyer miles earned by ASG employees, whose travel is paid by local funds, to be placed in a special account to assist the hospital with funding off island travel for patients needing medical treatment.
 
The bills came at a time when LBJ Medical Center was facing financial constraints and unable to provide for the off-island referral program. However, Maugaoali'i failed to muster enough support to get the bills moved out of committee. He even motioned for a non-binding resolution calling for the previous administration to set up such a policy,  but nothing came of it.
 
When informed of Lolo’s new policy, Maugaoali’i told Samoa News yesterday, “This is great news — this is fantastic and it’s long overdue, that this issue is addressed now to help the LBJ patients and our students.”
 
Maugaoali’i said he was going to raise this same issue with the governor soon. “It will take a governor to set a policy and then implement that policy. I am thankful to Gov. Lolo Moliga for implementing this policy,” he said happily.
 
“And the fact of the matter is, this is government money that paid for the airline tickets and the miles belong to the government,” he said.
 
According to the current fiscal year 2013 budget, close to $6 million is allocated for travel for the entire government, including semi autonomous agencies. This travel budget includes travel funded by federal grants.
 
Two senior ASG officials reached by phone yesterday say the word is just reaching government offices about this new policy and both officials offered differing opinions. One official agrees with the policy — especially to help LBJ referral patients — while the other official disagreed, saying that millage earned should go to the employee “who is actually traveling” on work for the government.
 
It will remain to be seen, if the Fono follows the new government policy, as their budget spending is dictated by themselves and not the Administrative Branch of the government.



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