Budget hearings come to halt as senate debates CPJA director status
The Fono leadership plans to write to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga regarding the Criminal Justice Planning Agency director's status and is asking for submission of the nominee’s name to the Legislature for confirmation. Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie says this has been the normal practice over the years since this office was first established as part of the Executive Branch.
The issue surfaced Monday when CJPA director Keith Gebauer appeared before the Fono joint budget hearing for the agency’s fiscal year 2014 budget review. After Gebauer made opening remarks and was prepared to answer questions, Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli said the rules are clear — during budget hearings, only a director confirmed by the Fono is allowed to testify on a department or agency’s budget.
Galeai says this is one director whose name has not been submitted to the Fono for confirmation and the Fono must follow the law which says that all political appointees to head departments and offices are subject to be confirmed by both the Senate and the House.
Before moving forward in CJPA’s budget hearing, Galeai suggested getting a legal opinion from the Fono attorney, adding it’s always best for the Fono to proceed under full compliance with the law.
Gaoteote said that ever since the CJPA office was established by law, the director has been subject to Fono confirmation and this was the case for the first CJPA director (Alalamua Filoiali’i) until his passing in late 2010.
In April 2011, then Gov. Togiola Tulafono appointed Taufete’e John Faumuina as director of CJPA and the nomination was never sent to the Fono for confirmation. Samoa News should point out that a provision of local statute — ASCA 46.0102(e) — states that the governor appoints the CJPA director, “who serves at the pleasure of the governor.”
The only other cabinet post which is not subject to Fono confirmation following a court challenge several years ago, is the Secretary of Samoan Affairs, who heads the Department of Local Government, or the Office of Samoan Affairs.
During Monday’s budget hearing, Gaoteote said the Fono leaders had written to Togiola about the need to have the CJPA director-nominee confirmed by the Legislature. Gaoteote didn’t reveal if any reply was received from Togiola, but he did note the Fono leaders had consulted that morning with the Fono legal counsel, who replied that the law is clear, that director-appointees are subject to Fono approval.
Gaoteote says he and House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale plan to also write to Lolo about this matter of the CJPA director. However, he suggested the budget hearing proceed and this was supported by Savali who said that it’s best that this matter has come up again in this new administration so that it can be addressed by the governor.
Galeai recommended this issue of discussion should be included in the Fono’s journal as a historical event being tackled by lawmakers. He says it’s time to address these types of issues now before heading forward.
Sen. Mauga T. Asuega reiterated the law is clear on director-appointees being subject to Fono confirmation. He says he is concerned as to what will happen the next time when this same issue surfaces again in the Fono with questions raised regarding directors not yet confirmed by the Legislature.
Gaoteote said it’s true the Fono cannot ignore the law, but he again suggested that lawmakers proceed with the hearing since Gebauer was already there and he currently oversees CJPA.
In the end the decision was made for the joint budget hearing to proceed for CJPA, whose total proposal for the FY 2014 budget is $1.80 million compared to the current fiscal year amount of $1.99 million.
Of the total FY 2014 budget, $1.66 million comes from federal grants and only $141,000 is local revenue. There are seven different federal grants listed in the CJPA budget with the largest one totaling $663,500 from the U.S. Justice Department under the Stop Violence Against Women grant program.
Rep. Larry Sanitoa noticed a decrease in FY 2014 federal grants compared to $1.85 million in FY 2013. “How serious is this decline in federal grants?” Sanitoa asked, and noted the federal sequestration on federal money has been in place since the beginning of the year.
Gebauer pointed out that four years ago federal grants totaled $5 million for CJPA and the trend continues downward and “is expected to continue into the future”.
CJPA administers federal grants which benefit other ASG entities such as the Attorney General’s office and Dept. of Public Safety, as well as other organizations, such as those working with youth and for the prevention of child and spousal abuse in the territory.
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