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House bill asks for Retirement Fund meetings be held here

Seven lawmakers have co-sponsored a resolution requesting that the American Samoa Government Employees Retirement Fund Board of Directors conduct all meetings of the fund, particularly the biennial meeting, in the territory instead of Hawai’i or off-island. It further seeks to have the Board have their annual meetings be open to all members and provide detailed reports of the status of the fund and its operations to all members.Transparency and “unnecessary spending of fund resources” are cited as reasons for the resolution.The resolution— which was in its first reading yesterday before the House—has been assigned to Rep. Fagasoaia Lealaitafea, Chairman of the Retirement Board. Sponsoring the resolution are Representatives Taotasi Archie Soliai, Larry Sanitoa, Pulelei’ite Li’amatua Tufele, Vailoata Eteuati Amituana’i, Va’amua Henry Sesepasara, Toeina Faufano Autele and Talo Lemapu Suiaunoa.RESOLUTIONAccording to the resolution, by 1963 the government had already begun planning for the creation of a retirement fund for its employees which became operative in January, 1971 and through “careful” management by the board, and “faithful” contributions of its members the fund has grown throughout the years to a level that was not expected at the time of its inception.With the rapid growth of the fund, the board decided at some point to invest the fund in various trading markets where it reached even higher returns. “It has been reported that at the height of its valuation, its investment portfolio had surpassed hundreds of millions of dollars and the recent economic downturn drastically reduced the value of the fund, losing millions when the global markets collapsed,” says the resolution. The members have been ill-informed as to any of the losses suffered in the past years given the lack of transparency, as well as limiting the sharing of fund investments to a single meeting held every two years in Hawai’i ,which is only attended by the members of the retirement committees of the House and Senate. This only only satisfies the statutory requirement to provide a report to the legislators and “members of the fund would be better served if an annual meeting was held in the territory”, says the resolution.“This would further save the fund tens of thousands of dollars that they currently spend to have legislators travel to Hawaii to attend a two day meeting, yet this fund is the only real retirement plan available to government employees.”The House resolution also says, “it would be prudent for the Board to resolve to discontinue the unnecessary spending of Fund resources and instead provide members with an open forum where they disseminate all information on the health of the fund as well as allow the members to inquire and recommend use of their contributions.”The resolution states that the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives is directed to deliver and present this House Resolution to Aleki Sene Sr., Chairman of the Board of Directors, with copies to go to Gov. Lolo M. Moliga and Fili Ta’afua, Director of the Retirement Office.The governor is currently in the process of identifying names for the new Retirement Fund board, said the governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira last week, who was responding to Samoa News inquiries. The governor has not indicated who he will appoint to the new board. The old board members are Aleki Sene Sr., who is chairman of the board; former Lt. Gov. Faoa Sunia; Fanene Morris Scanlan; Magalei Logovi'i, former ASG Treasurer; and, Brant \BJ\ Judy, a former chief financial officer for G.H.C. Reid Co.Ltd.