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ASEDA reviewing possible projects for $6Mil bond proceeds now floating

Proceeds are from relocation of airport jet fuel tank project, now funded by FAA

With the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pledging to fully fund the relocation of the airport jet fuel tank project, the $6 million in proceeds from bonds issued by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority is now floating and can be used for other government projects.

ASG is providing $2 million in local matching funds for two FAA projects — the jet fuel relocation and improvements to Pago Pago International Airport.

Asked how ASEDA board is going to use the $6 million that was allocated for the jet fuel tank project, board chairman Utu Abe Malae said potential projects include road sealing, dredging, harbor equipment, and buildings.

“For example, funding is already available for the design of the Fono Building; but there is no financing for construction,” he explain. “Likewise, ASEDA must help Port Administration and Treasury Department identify matching for the airport projects.”

Additionally, there are improvements to the slipway that could result in improved shipyard services to the fishing boats.

A veteran lawmaker told Samoa News early this week that financing for construction of the Fono building will come from the unused $6 million. “We at ASEDA did not receive any request to that effect,” said Utu when asked for comment.

Asked as to how ASEDA board will prioritize project proposals to be funded with the $6 million, Utu said, “Sealing roads out in the western and eastern side of Tutuila come to mind.”

He said that Public Works Department can also apply for federal Garvey Bonds through ASEDA and leverage grant and bond funds just as it did for Port Administration for the airport projects cost-shared with FAA.

“Priority is based on need, ability to leverage financing (including political support), benefit/cost ratio and repayment capacity,” he said. And noted that ASEDA is awaiting benefit/cost review from the shipyard. He also says that its unknown yet as to how many proposed projects will be funded with the $6 million.

According to ASEDA’s status report update list of projects and costs, as of last month, the proposed funding for the shipyard is $1 million, which is “pending final approval.”

When the original list of projects to be funded with bond proceeds was submitted to the Fono just over a year ago with an update list at the start of 2016, there was no funding for LBJ Medical Center, but it was later added to the list. Many lawmakers only knew about the LBJ $2.9 million funding when the information became public a few months ago.

Utu acknowledged that LBJ wasn’t included in the original list of projects but points out that the “urgent capital and cash needs of the hospital became known later to ASEDA and Governor.”

Responding to public concerns that the ASEDA board is “not transparent” in its work including making available the update list or status report of projects funded with bond money, Utu said “we try to be as transparent as possible because that is what we are supposed to do anyway.”

He also told Samoa News the ASEDA status report, which provides the list of projects, total allocation, and how much is expended so far — as of last month: Of the total $78.91 million received in bond revenues, a total of $41.87 have been expended as of August, according to the ASEDA status report, which Utu says has been submitted to the Fono.