FONO CONFIRMS NEW BOARD OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY
The Lolo administration can now move forward with economic development plans through the issuance of bonds to finance future infrastructure, after the Fono officially confirmed the seven-member board of the American Samoa Economic Development Authority (ASEDA).
The final decision was made in the Senate yesterday when all seven members — who were described by Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeao as the “magnificent seven” — were approved by senators.
The nominees and their Senate vote were: Afoa Moega Lutu 15-0; Keniseli Lafaele, Utu Abe Malae and Steven Watson, each received a 14-1 vote; Iulogologo Joseph Pereira and Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Tuia Poumele each received a 13-2 vote; and Dr. Falema’o ‘Phil’ M. Pili 12-3.
Last week the House approved Lafaele, Iulogologo, Utu, Afoa and Watson, while Pili and Taimalelagi were rejected, but their nominations stayed alive after a motion of reconsideration was approved by the majority.
Then on Tuesday this week, the House voted on the motion to reconsider Taimalelagi and Pili and both were approved.
Prior to the Senate vote, the Senate Economic Development Committee held a confirmation hearing at 7:30a.m. yesterday and all senators who spoke praised Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga for reconstituting this board and reviving ASEDA to help the government seek ways to come up with funds to pay for economic development and infrastructure.
With the board reconstituted, Lolo is looking at bonds as a revenue stream for major local projects that can’t be funded through ordinary government income sources.
During the hearing Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeao said the nominees are no stranger to the Fono and they are well qualified for the work ahead of them. He described the seven-member board as the “magnificent seven”, who will do good things for the territory.
Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie said he is very hopeful that the board will also keep in mind funds to build a new Fono building which is a great investment for the territory’s future lawmakers. He informed the nominees that without a new building, the Fono leadership can only “patch-up” anything that falls apart in the building.
As reported by Samoa News, the Fono had been allocated $3 million under the ASG $20 million loan from the Retirement Fund to build a new building, but the loan money itself has only about $1.3 million left, and the Fono has only used $100,000 of its share.
Sen. Faumuina Tagisiaali’i made two suggestions for economic development for the board to consider: do something to replace the old Rainmaker Hotel and purchase a jet-way for the Pago Pago International Airport.
FONO APPROVES BILL TO CAP TORT LIABILITY CLAIMS AT $500,000
The administration bill which caps tort liability claims against the territorial government at $500,000 was unanimously approved yesterday in both the Senate and House. Both chambers now go through the usual protocol of approving each other’s version and then sending one version to the governor for his signature.
The House hearing on the bill was held last week while the Senate hearing by the Senate Judicial Committee was held Monday this week, where Attorney General Afoa Moega Lutu told senators that the government cannot afford to move forward without placing a ceiling cap for claims against ASG.
Senators agreed that with limited government financial resources it’s difficult for ASG to deal with lawsuits, especially those with judgments in the millions of dollars. (A notable example is the $6 million judgement against ASG in the old Laufou Shopping Center fire.)
However, Sens. Galeai Tu’ufuli, Nua Saoluaga and Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono wanted to know what preventive measures the government has taken to ensure that such a lawsuit does not happen again when it comes to employees.
Galeai says if employees are not diligent and honest in their work, there will be more lawsuits causing even more serious problems for the government. Nua added that the big problem he sees is that there are employees who are careless in carrying out their duties.
“Something must be done with employees who are found to be at fault resulting in a lawsuit,” added Soliai and pointed out for example, the lawsuits brought against ASG due to negligence at the hospital by a physician.
Afoa reminded senators this is a new administration, which is focused on encouraging employes to do their job with honesty and with great care. He says it cannot be done overnight but to trust the administration to do the right thing. He also said the administration needs the Fono's support.
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