Final language of Retirement board bill addresses lawmakers complaints
An important amendment made by the House to the Senate version of an administration bill seeking to increase the number of board of trustees for the ASG Employees Retirement Fund will address a long standing complaint by lawmakers over the years that board members whose terms have expired, continue to serve without being reappointed, or have new ones appointed, subject to Fono confirmation.
The House amendments were adopted by the Senate on Wednesday and the bill has since been registered in the Fono journal. The bill is now ready be sent to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga for review and consideration, and it's unclear how the governor will act on the bill due to the various amendments made by the Fono.
Lolo had proposed amending current law by increasing the number of board members from five to nine, saying that hiking the number of board members will result in a more extensive range of skills and experienced resources being available to benefit the Retirement Fund.
But several amendments were made by the Fono in the final approved language of the bill. Among them is that there will be seven board of trustees, where at least “four” trustees shall be members of the Fund having “the minimum of” five years of service; and “three” trustees are non Fund members “but shall include among them at least two members with experience in the private sector business community.”
Additionally, terms in office for three members are staggered between two and five years.
Not touched by the Fono is the current law which states that, as their terms expire, new members shall be appointed to fill vacancies and such appointments shall be for five years.
However, the major amendment to the bill adds that “the term of any incumbent member shall continue after its expiration, except he shall be deemed resigned from the board and shall no longer serve if he, or his replacement, is not appointed and submitted by the governor to the Legislature prior to the adjournment of any session during which the term expired, or if the term expires after adjournment of that session, then prior to the adjournment of the next session of the Legislature, regular or special.”
This change addresses the long standing complaint of lawmakers over the years of board members whose terms have long expired, but continue to serve — despite not being re-submitted to the Fono for confirmation.
Current law remains that the governor, in consultation with the board, will decide upon suitable candidates to fill any board vacancy or vacancies. The governor will choose his appointee(s) and send them to the Fono for confirmation.
Outgoing board chairman Aleki Sene Sr., had testified before the Fono in past years that the board had submitted to the governor's office their recommendations. However, none were ever submitted by the last administration.
Lawmakers are hopeful that the current governor will agree with Fono amendments to ensure that the fund is fully protected now and into the future.
Of major concern to the outgoing board was that more non Fund members were to sit on the board than Fund members.