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Former treasurer reveals why Road Maintenance Fund was taken from DPW

Now that he is a senator, former ASG Treasurer Magalei Logovi’i has finally revealed the real reason why the Road Maintenance Fund, which is funded with the 10-cent of the fuel excise tax, was taken away from the Department of Public Works about three years ago.During a Senate Public Works Committee hearing yesterday the issue of the road maintenance fund, which was previously under DPW jurisdiction but transferred to Treasury, was raised by senators, who spoke about the need to continue to repair roads that are in terrible condition.Testifying at the hearing was Public Works Department director-appointee Faleosina Voight, who was urged by Sen. Avegalio Aigamaua to ensure that the 10-cent earmarked for the road maintenance fund is not taken away, because there are no other funds for road repairs.Avegalio also said that it was Magalei — during has tenure as Treasurer — who took away this fund from DPW, which is needed to pay for road repairs.Voight said there are no other local funds for road repairs and the governor is now working with the Treasury Department to hopefully resolve this issue and probably return this fund back to DPW.As senators were chortling that Avegalio had mentioned Magalei’s name and noted Magalei’s presence in the hearing, the former ASG Treasurer sought permission from the committee to give his side of the story to this issue that has kept coming up in the past year in the Fono.Magalei said the account was taken away from DPW because the previous director used it to purchase three DPW trucks, which included one that he used — and to pay for salaries of employees — but that was not the purpose of this account. Additionally, this account is specifically for road repairs, said Magalei, who urged Voight to make sure this account is not used for any other purpose, if it’s returned to DPW.Magalei explained that the U.S. Federal Highway Administration funds road projects in American Samoa but does not provide money for road maintenance and repair and therefore this account is very important for ASG.The previous director, Taeaotui Punaofo Tilei had testified many times before the Fono last year that DPW couldn’t do much to carry out repair for roads, because the road maintenance fund remained under the control of the Treasurer. Magalei had testified last year that DPW still had access to the account as long as they provided to Treasury Department invoices and justification for use of the funds.According to the fiscal year 2013 budget document, $600,000 is budgeted for this fund with some $15,000 for “personnel costs” and the rest for material and supplies, equipment and other expenditures. The budget does not show if any — or how many — “personnel” are to be paid with this fund.