Senate rejects gov's nominee for DBAS president post
The governor’s nomination of Leilua Stevenson as president of the Development Bank of American Samoa was yesterday rejected by the Senate as the nominee failed to achieve a majority vote to be confirmed.
The vote - by secret ballot, which is part of Fono rules when it comes to a confirmation vote - had seven senators endorsing the nomination with 7 “yes” votes and eight senators, who voted “no”.
Stevenson’s father, Alo Dr. Paul Stevenson, attended the Senate session when the vote was carried out. Alo wasn’t present during the confirmation hearing, held earlier in the day and there was no indication that the vote would come down the way it did.
Stevenson, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Loyola Marymount University in California, has been director of the Department of Human and Service since early 2009.
Sen. Mauga T. Asuega noted during the hearing that Stevenson has spent most of her life in the private sector with her last post prior to joining ASG as comptroller for StarKist Samoa, where she moved up the ladder.
With her extensive background in finance, Mauga called on the nominee to ensure that DBAS and American Samoa comply with all federal grant requirements if she is confirmed.
He also said that there should be “one law for all” but also “be fair as much as you can” in making decisions. He said it’s time for leaders to step up to the plate and do the job for a better American Samoa.
Sen. Velega Savali, who chaired the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing, said Stevenson had done a lot in the period of time she was with the DHSS and she has probably done more than other previous directors.
And as DHSS director, Velega said Stevenson, was able to secure and/or maintain millions of dollars in federal funding for American Samoa. He then questioned the witness if she was asked by Gov. Togiola Tulafono to take up the DBAS post, to which the answer was “yes”.
Velega asked why she accepted the offer, and Stevenson explained that after four years with DHSS, she has realized what it is like to be a public servant and wants to continue that service. She also pointed out she has “a lot of compassion” for the people of American Samoa, adding that there are a lot of people who are in need of help and she sees the bank as another opportunity to help those in need - from those wanting new homes or to repair homes to the development of the business sector.
“I see an opportunity to help our people,” she added.
Velega told the witness, “I am proud of your accomplishments at the department (DHSS) and. sad to see you leaving this department.”
Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli said that based on her resume, Stevenson came highly recommended from the private sector to work in government. He said DHSS received millions of dollars over the years but there were also compliance issues and problems. He asked what was the main problem at DHSS when she was asked to be director of DHSS.
Stevenson said she was asked by Togiola to address financial issues in DHSS including the high-risk status. She also stressed to senators that the DHSS staff is the backbone of the department and that she worked in partnership with management and staff in order for the department to succeed.
“I am only as good as the staff. We’ve done it together,” she said. “There are many good people at the department.”
Galeai said Stevenson has done a good job at DHSS. The senator also pointed out that DBAS is very important to American Samoa especially in the low-income housing area and small businesses.
Asked what would be her priority if confirmed as DBAS president, Stevenson said, there are several areas to be addressed and among them, “working capital” for the bank. She said there is a need to find more funding resources.