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SENATE HEARING ON SECTION 1602 PROGRAM

Three witnesses including former Development Bank of American Samoa (DBAS) president Lolo Letalu M. Moliga are scheduled to appear tomorrow before a Senate Government Operations Committee hearing regarding the federally funded Section 1602 program, which is for the construction of low-income homes.

Committee chairman Velega Savali Jr., yesterday announced the hearing, following requests from some senators earlier this week to find out the actual truth about the alleged problems with program as cited in the Section 1602 draft report, revised July 11, 2012, which was the subject of three Samoa News stories late last week and Tuesday this week.

Besides Lolo, other witnesses are Jason Betham, the DBAS vice president and DBAS board chairman Malemo Tausaga, who is also director for the ASG Office of Budget and Planning.

Velega is requesting, to hopefully get today, a copy of the federal rules and regulation polices covering the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants, which is the funding source for the Section 1602 program.

Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie acknowledged the hearings and noted that it’s good that these individuals have been called before the committee to answer questions about the program and the draft report.

According to the Senate President, he has a lot of answers to the lingering questions about the draft report, but stated it’s best the answers come directly from the witnesses who have been summoned by the committee.

COURT JUDGEMENTS APPROVED

The House approved Tuesday two bills, which are the Senate versions of administration measures, totaling more than $300,000 to pay separate High Court judgments against the American Samoa Government.

The first court judgment appropriates $32,500 to settle a High Court judgment handed down in 2009 over a 2001 accident where a student was injured by a government vehicle around the Pago Pago Elementary School area.

The second judgment calls for $321,757 to settle a judgment against ASG for breach of contract by failing to pay for construction services provided by Pacific International Engineering, Ltd. (PIE).

Funding sources for the two bills from the government are higher business license fees and the new corporate franchise tax, as well as an increase in import tax on beer, tobacco and alcohol. However,  the Senate amended the funding source to the $6.8 million in the un-pledged interest from the tobacco settlement.

In the PIE judgment, the total has been reduced down by $25,000 which is the amount of money the High Court ordered the government to pay — as part of the judgment — for funeral expenses for company owner, Warren Fisher, who passed away last month.

The House approved the bills, including the Senate amendments, on Tuesday in third and final reading. The bills are now being enrolled before being transmitted to the governor. It’s unclear as to what action the governor will take on the two bills, due to the amendments in the funding source.



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