Former faipule appeal to Governor to re-establish OIG
Two former members of the Fono — Galumalemana W. Satele and Pulu Ae Ae, Jr. have written to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to request that he seek to re-establish the Office of Inspector General in the Territory.
“We, as citizens of the Territory, and former faipule of the Legislature, are deeply saddened and embarrassed by the ongoing events which clearly display the misuse of public funds and abuse of authority by certain officials of the American Samoa Government” they wrote, in a letter dated May 21, 2013 but didn’t cite specific examples of alleged misuse of public funds or abuse of authority.
According to the letter, the special request was prompted by extensive reports in the local media, specifically as chronicled in Samoa News.
“It is clear that abuse of authority and misuse of government funds by government official are pervasive, have been totally exposed and never stopped. Yet, even after these reports became known to the public, nothing has been done to correct these blatant violations,” they told the Governor, adding, “We look to you for leadership.”
(Samoa News has reported over the past couple of weeks about the lavish spending of the $20 million loan that ASG received from the ASG Employees Retirement Fund, as well as tens of thousands of dollars spent by the Fono over the last six months, with little or no accountability.)
“We are hoping the newly established Office of Fraud Prevention and Investigation under your office will look into this activity” they say, adding that this is a “great initiative by your administration with regards to transparency and accountability”.
However, “having an OIG office on island will further deter abuse, promote efficiency and enhance the best changes implemented since the beginning of your leadership.”
“We are confident that initiating this proposal will highlight and give credence to your motto ‘People First’ and you will be honored for transparency, credibility and accountability of local government operations,” the letter says.
It also states that there is no question that having the OIG in the territory will benefit the people and by means of federal oversight will strengthen management practices.
And mostly importantly, it will “enhance our relationship” with the U.S. by showing that “we are serous about minimizing or deterring public corruption, and strengthening our position as good stewards of federal dollars, given that American Samoa is fully supported by federal monies.”
“We strongly believe the time has come for this,” it says.
The last Office of Inspector General operated in the territory in the late 1980s, but was closed down when the Territorial Audit Office was established by law.
Samoa News understands that one person who was on the staff of the IG's office when it closed down spoke at a local civic club meeting and told the members that the IG's office was leaving because while they could gather evidence, once they turned it over to the local authorities, no prosecutions ever resulted and because of this, the OIG found the office a waste of money.
Last November, prior to taking over the Governor’s post, Lolo requested the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs for a “comprehensive financial audit” of all local government finances.
He sought to obtain, among other things, “accurate financial information to guide decisions relative to the establishment of new revenue generation strategies and expenditure containment measures.”
However, in January this year, DOI acting deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, Eileen Sobeck, responded that OIA is “not authorized” to conduct the type of audit the Governor requested. She noted that the DOI-OIG is authorized to conduct audits for DOI.
She said Lolo’s request was discussed with OIG and she was informed that the reviews the OIG performs are “normally programmatic or operational rather than financial”.
The letter was also sent to Congressman Faleomavaega and Lydia Faleafine-Nomura, DOI Field Representative.
Reporter Fili Sagapolutele contributed to this story.