Four of five nominees for Retirement Board approved by Senate

The Senate yesterday approved four of the five nominees to the ASG Employees Retirement Fund board of trustees, who appeared before a confirmation hearing, with the final decision on the confirmed nominees to be made today in the House.

 

Nominees endorsed by the Senate and their vote: Human Resource director Sonny (12-4); Maaelopa Bob Tuiasosopo (13-3); Sen. Magalei Logovi’i (11-5); and Aleki Sene Sr. (12-4).

 

Rejected — again — by the Senate, is ASG Treasurer Dr. Falema’o ‘Phil’ M. Pili in a vote of 6-yes and 10-no. Pili needed 10-yes votes to be confirmed. Even if Pili is confirmed by the House, he is already officially rejected, because he requires approval by both chambers to be fully confirmed for the board.

 

Nominee Beaver Ho Ching, who is currently off island, was informed Tuesday of yesterday’s confirmation hearing. He is now scheduled to return to the territory this Friday, and Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie says the Senate can act on this nominee on Monday, the last day of the special session.

 

CONFIRMATION HEARING

 

Prior to the vote, the five nominees appeared before the Senate Retirement Committee for the confirmation hearing, where Sene — the current board chairman — shared good news that the Fund balance has increased by $5 million as of early this week.

 

Sene’s revelation came after comments from senators, including Sen. Gaea Perefoti Failautusi, who pointed out that the FY 2013 audit financial statement released this week by the Retirement Office shows that the auditing firm of Moss-Adams gave an “unqualified opinion” of the Fund’s finances.

 

Gaea, a former ASG Treasurer, says this designation by the independent auditors means the Fund is safe, secure and doing well.

 

Sen. Faumuina Tagisiaali’i questioned Sene and Magalei, also a current board member, of their projections for the Fund over the next two years. Sene informed senators that the Fund’s portfolio as of the end FY 2013 stands at $211 million, but the latest update as of Tuesday this week shows an increase of $5 million, putting the Fund at $216 million.

 

Faumuina then asked Sene if Magalei is useful to the current board. Sene replied, “yes” adding that Magalei — a former ASG Treasurer — has been an asset to the board and has provided the board chairman with good advice.

 

There was a suggestion from the committee for the board to look at increasing retirement benefits for current retirees, because this additional money provides a lot of financial help to families, especially those in the low income bracket.

 

Sene responded that in accordance with the law, the board does conduct a review every two years and makes appropriate recommendations regarding an increase — between 1% and 3% — or no increase at all.

 

Sene said this year requires another review and this will be carried out by the board (which also looks at the health status of the Fund on how much of an increase it can afford to implement.)

 

Sen. Faletagoa’i I. Tuiolemotu recalled that early last year during the Retirement Fund meeting in Honolulu — lawmakers were invited — it was fully confirmed that the fund is “financially healthy” and based on the new FY 2013 independent audit and the increase of $5 million cited by Sene, this further solidifies that the Fund is secure and healthy.

 

He urged any nominees who get confirmed to sit on the board, to make it their priority to continue to keep the fund safe and secure for current and future retirees.

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