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Fono in Review

CONFIRMATION HEARING DATES SET FOR DHSS, DOC, DPW DIRECTOR NOMINEESTaeaoafua Dr. Meki Solomona, nominated to head the Department of Human and Social Services, is set to appear before the House Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Allen on Monday, Jan 28, .2013 at 8:30 a.m.Meanwhile, Chairman of the House Committee on Commerce and Retirement, Rep. Fagasoaia F.. Lealaitafea, has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Keniseli Faalupe Lafaele, the Governor’s nominee for Department of Commerce director, for Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 at 8:30 a.m.The Governor’s nomination for director of Public Works, Faleosina Faiai Voight will appear before the House Committee on Public Works, chaired by Rep. Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava, on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 at 8:30 a.m.Lolo urged the Fono leadership and their colleagues to confirm his nominations.The rescheduled House confirmation hearing for director of the Department of Homeland Security, Utualii Iuniasolua Tului Savusa, is for today, Jan. 24, at 1 p.m.In the meantime, back-to-back House confirmations for directors of the Department of Education and Treasury were held. See stories for details in today’s Samoa News.HOUSE COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC WORKS HEARING — ROAD CONDITIONSQuestions and comments made during a hearing Tuesday morning before the House Committee on Public Works, chaired by Rep. Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava, addressed the issue of road conditions, with the Department of Public Works acting director Faleosina Faiai Voight its only witness.Many of the House representatives commented on the conditions of roads in their own districts, with Rep. Vui Florence Saulo urging Voight to put Tualauta district at the top of the list this year, when it comes to road projects and funding consideration.Vui said her district has over 22,000 residents, 7,000 of which are voters, and this area of the territory is highly populated, yet the roads are in deplorable condition.She specifically addressed the section of the road between Fatuoaiga and Fagaima, saying that the headquarters for all the big religious denominations are located there (Fatuoaiga, Kanana Fou, Susana Uesele) and with graduation season looming, it is only sensible to have the roads fixed right away. Vui noted that the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop John Quinn Weitzel resides in the area and has continuously requested repairs for the road leading to the Fatuoaiga compound. “I just have one question for you,” Vui said to Voight. “Why? Why has it taken so long for your office to do anything to address this problematic section of the road?”Voight replied that the area in question is included in the 5-year Territorial Transportation Improvement Plan (TTIP), which is currently on the governor’s desk being reviewed. “Once the approval is granted for the 5-year plan, it won’t be long before some of these long awaited road programs will come to fruition,” she assured the lawmakers. Former Gov. Togiola Tulafono in reply to a request by Bishop Weitzel for repairs to these roads stated on his radio program several times that it’s very difficult for the government to fix the Ottoville roads (where the religious denominations are located) because the roads are on private property owned by the Haleck family. He said these roads have been used as public roads, although they are not public roads. The Bishop disagreed with Togiola’s assessment, maintaining since they are used by the ‘public’, they are public roads. The chairman of the committee focused on Voight’s nomination as DPW director. He told Voight that if she wanted to guarantee that she will never be removed from her job, all she has to do is heed his advice: “Every government job, especially at the village and district level, needs to come before the Fono for review.”“You need to remember that this is where decisions are made,” he added. The lawmaker cautioned Voight to be aware of people coming directly to her office, seeking special favors for jobs within the villages and districts. Atualevao told the acting DPW director to be strong and not weak at heart, as the job she is being called to carry out is a big one.Manu’a faipule Rep. Fetu Fetui Jr. urged his colleages to stop hounding Voight with questions about road conditions within their respective districts, as Voight is anticipating her confirmation hearing scheduled for next Thursday at 8:30 a.m. in the House of Representatives.Fetui asked Voight point blank if she felt she was ready to lead DPW, Voight replied in the affirmative.SENATE BUSINESSWednesday, in the Senate, the focus was on back-to-back confirmation hearings for directors for the DOE and the Treasury.