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ASPA’s FY 2012 budget hearings begin on Monday

The Fono joint budget committee convenes Monday to review the rest of American Samoa Power Authority’s (ASPA) budget for fiscal year 2012 and the Fono leadership hopes ASPA will have all the necessary reports that have been requested since early this month.

During the budget process last year, the Fono approved only $30.8 million to cover the first four months of FY 2012 for the power authority. Lawmakers complained that ASPA was not forthcoming with all requested financial information on its operations including its fuel division and the new rate hikes that went into effect Oct. 1, 2011.

At Thursday’s Senate session, Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie informed senators that the leadership of both houses as well as chairmen of the respective budget committees have agreed to start reviewing on Monday the rest of ASPA’s FY 2012 budget because this process needs to be completed before the end of this month or ASPA will be without approved funding beyond January.

Gaoteote said each chamber will convene their regular session at 9 a.m. and the budget review an hour later, with the hope to have it finished by Jan. 25, giving time for each chamber to approve the final version for submission to the governor.

Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli said the Senate should change its approach when it comes to ASPA, by bringing only the chief executive officer, chief financial officer and the right management people with knowledge on money to testify— not only for the budget hearing but all future hearings.

He said the ASPA board should not be required to be called, adding that some of the board members are still serving on the board while their terms have expired and there is a serious problem with members whose terms have expired answering questions.

He said he is tired of looking (‘tiga mata’) at the board members, who believe they are ‘fia tagata’ — high and mighty.

However, Sen. Fonoti T. Aufata said it’s best to bring board members along with the management team so that lawmakers can get each side to answer the same question, all at one time.

Gaotetoe said all financial reports dealing with ASPA have been requested and ASPA management should be fully prepared to answer every question about their budget. He said ASPA has had all this time to prepare and there shouldn’t be any problems dealing with ASPA responses during the budget review.

According to the Senate President, the Senate deals directly with ASPA’s top management, but during past hearings every “Joe, Simi, Toma” from ASPA shows up.

In the House, faipule were informed about the ASPA budget hearing to begin on Monday.