“WHY AMERICAN SAMOA STRUGGLES”
The Samoa News issue of August 8 contained several articles that individually and collectively help explain why American Samoa struggles.
ASG lost a lawsuit brought about by Pacific International Engineering, which claimed that ASG owed PIE money related to a Public Works contract-gone-bad in Manu’a many, many years ago. Judgment against taxpayers: $320,000
ASG lost a lawsuit brought by an insurance company, which claimed that the damages at the Laufou fire in 2002 were due, in large part, to problems with the Public Safety Fire Department. Judgment against taxpayers: $6,600,000.
ASG lost an arbitration brought by Marisco, which claimed ASG owed money for work done on a tugboat and some barges related to a Port Administration contract-gone-bad. Judgment against taxpayers: $800,000.
Since ASG cannot afford to pay these judgments, stuff happens. This week, the court ordered ASG to pay the widow of PIE owner Warren Fisher $25,000 for his funeral expenses. Fisher died before he could collect from ASG. This week, new light is being shed in the Senate by Capt. Wally Thompson, Carlos Sanchez and Port Deputy Director Chris King concerning the Marisco situation, suggesting that almost $2 million in public funds were “wasted.
Yesterday’s paper also brought “news” that the ASG budget review is being delayed another week or two (on top of the recent two-week delay) because the 2013 budget is not printed yet. By the time the Fono gets the budget, the 9-week review period established by law will have shrunk to less than half that amount, which means the budget review will be rushed as usual.
Yesterday’s paper also included an article about the tough questioning of LBJ CEO Mike Gertsenberger, who was asked to defend salary increases given to LBJ contract employees who, in the opinion of LBJ management, warranted higher pay for renewing their contracts and not leaving the territory with even bigger health care personnel problems. Gertesenberger was also criticized for trying to recruit a specialized computer expert to help straighten out our chronic problems with getting all the Medicaid and Medicare money we are entitled to from the U.S. Government in a timely manner (Medicaid and Medicare provide about 80% of LBJ’s funding).
If Gertsenberger allowed the contract employees to leave because LBJ didn’t offer a higher salary, and if LBJ never got a specialized computer expert to help with federal funding, here is what would happen: the hospital would suffer and people would suffer. But Gertsenberger would probably not have been called before the Fono and subjected to tough questioning.
I’ll bet that there were good people in the ASG who tried to do something to prevent PIE’s contract from going bad, who tried to improve the Fire Department before the Laufou fire, who tried to keep the Marisco contract on track, and who tried to get the budget ready in time. I’ll bet those good people were stymied in their efforts.
The American Samoa Government must do more to help good people get the job done properly. Otherwise, we end up in messes like those revealed in yesterday’s newspaper. Otherwise, the “good people” become so discouraged that they turn to the dark side (apathy and worse).