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IP says all transfer of equipment was done legally

 Independent Prosecutor Fa’amomoi Masaniai is defending his transferral of office equipment, including a vehicle from the Office of Independent Prosecutor (OIP) to other government agencies, saying it was done legally.

“I followed ASG guidelines when it came to Property Management, Procurement, and OMV. My office did nothing wrong and the OIP followed protocol, the statutes, and most importantly the law when it came to transferring equipment/furniture/court orders within Government Agencies.

 “Furthermore, I do have authority to distribute furniture/equipment that belongs to the OIP as the statutes also indicate that the OIP must be separate from the AG’s office.

“Pursuant to my appointment and the statutes, I am the Director of the OIP and If other IP's wanted to open their own office, nothing in the statutes prevent them from doing that”, Moi explained.

However, Attorney General Fepulea’i Arthur Ripley says the OIP’s budget came from the Attorney General’s budget — that is, the statutes and that all of the OIP's costs would be covered by the AG's office — “Which means the items belong to the AG’s office and cannot be transferred to other government agencies and since Masaniai left, all the items should have been returned to the AG’s office”.

Samoa News understands that Independent Prosecutor Fa’amomoi Masaniai transferred the IP’s Ford SUV to the Public Defender’s office along with computers and office equipment.

Deputy Director of Property Management Ino Vitale confirmed that his office approved the transfer, however, he was not aware the items that were transferred from the IP’s office belonged to the AG’s office. Vitale claims the transfer was illegal, given that the account from which these items were purchased is under the Attorney General’s office budget.

In an email to Samoa News, IP Masaniai said the OIP initially received  $200,000 — and  this was after the Budget Director and the Treasurer were summoned to court by the Appointing Division and ordered the establishment of a budget for the OIP.

“An account was created for the IP's office and that money did not come from the AG — it was requested for approval from the Fono by the Governor's office.

“The Fono approved the request upon the basis that it was a court order.

“From that budget, 95% of the equipment/furniture/supplies for the OIP were purchased, and over $41,000 of that budget was returned at the end of FY 2009.”

 He said that each year since the OIP operations began in 2009, a new Budget was created for the OIP by the Director of Budget and Planning, our Budget Analyst. 

 “Nowhere was the AG involved, when it came time for the Budget Hearings, I (Masaniai) responded to questions by the Budget Committee regarding my budget, not the AG.”

Masaniai explained that when the Fono cut the OIP's budget for the FY 2011, the OIP was not able to meet its lease obligations nor pay utilities. He added that under the statute, it states that "All costs in relation to creation and operation of the IP shall come from the AG.” 

 Masaniai said he sent a letter to the AG requesting financial support and in return a letter was faxed to the OIP from the AG stating "that you should go and see the Budget Director and the Treasurer because they created your own budget."

He noted this is exactly what he did.

“I sought out the assistance of both of those agencies and they followed the law by withdrawing money out of the AG’s budget to pay for costs incurred by the OIP.”

 Masaniai explained the AG’s office is one of the government agencies who received equipment from the OIP.

Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop Folau confirmed with Samoa News, that the AG’s office received a projector.

In other issues, Masaniai also made it clear that when the IP cases that are pending are called before the court, he will be present.