Senator Magalei: Transfer of funds from DOE to DPW “clear violation of law”
Senator Magalei Logovi’i is adamant that the law has been violated— referring to the move by the Administration to shift funds and personnel from the Dept. of Education (DOE) to the Dept. of Public Works (DPW). The funds in question were budgeted and allocated to the Department of Education for maintenance of school buildings, and along with DOE maintenance employees, the funds were transferred to DPW.
The issue was discussed during a Senate Hearing concerning longstanding issues of road maintenance with Director of Public Works, Faleosina Voigt. Changing the subject Magalei asked Voigt if the DOE funds transfer had been made during fiscal year 2014 or during the previous FY and Voigt responded that it was made during FY 2014.
The Senator explained that this is a violation of law and something must be done. “By law the Budget Director can only transfer $25,000 per quarter from one agency to another. That’s all the director is able to transfer, by law— and this is clearly a violation.”
During the Fono’s opening, Lolo said this new maintenance strategy has been established to ensure that maintenance requirements for each school are responded to without delay.”
Magalei continued to question the Director, asking her about the six brand new F-150 trucks that were bought for the representatives of the six districts who are coordinating DOE maintenance.
The DPW Director confirmed with lawmakers that the six vehicles had been purchased recently from DOE funding.
(See in Samoa News Wednesday edition “Is It True” for full details on the vehicles and their funding.)
During the regular session, Magalei also voiced his concern with the transfer, noting that the Fono must act on this violation. Senator Laolagi Savali Vaeao supported Magalei’s concerns and stated that the Senate Legal Counsel should look into this matter and issue a legal opinion and then take the matter up with Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga.
OTHERS ISSUES DISCUSSED DURING HEARING
Also discussed during the hearing, Senator Nua Saoluaga Nua asked Voigt what the government owes to businesses that provided materials for the construction of the new Veteran Building, located in the Tafuna Industrial Park. Nua told the DPW Director that it had been employees from DPW who had signed promissory notes with local businesses for the materials and although it has been almost two years since that time, the businesses have not been paid.
“The VA people are enjoying the comfort of the new building yet the businesses are suffering because they have not been paid,” said the Senator. Voigt informed Nua that they are working with Treasury to have these pending bills paid.
Responding to queries by Senator Laolagi on the status of the Airport Road project, the DPW Director told Senators the contract for the Airport Road has been awarded to McConnell Dowell, the Notice To Proceed has already been issued, and the work should be underway soon.
During the initial bidding on the Airport Road Project, McConnell Dowell was the second lowest bidder for the work. After the contract of the original lowest bidder, Whitehorn, had been terminated, the contract was awarded to McConnell Dowell. The move to terminate the Whitehorn contract came after the government found out the bonds, which had been issued for Whitehorn were fake or bogus. Late last year Whitehorn construction challenged the move by ASG and filed a petition with the Administrative Law Court. The matter is still pending.
Senator Laolagi also urged Voigt to look into the flooding situations still faced by the Tualauta residents, referring to the flooding in front of Cost-U-Less and in front of the Mormon Chapel in Ottoville. He stated that these issues have been long outstanding for many years and it appears that they are not being dealt with seriously.
Samoa News points out that Public Works briefed Tualauta faipule Larry Sanitoa recently, saying there is an engineering team working on a soakage pit to be constructed near the Cost-U-Less lake. (Details in last Saturday’s Community Briefs.)