Drivers still being issued receipts in lieu of licenses
During separate committee hearings in both the Senate and House, Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson confirmed to lawmakers that there is a problem with the equipment used to process driver's licenses and this is the reason why only receipts are being issued.
Early last week, some lawmakers voiced concerns over the issuance of receipts to people seeking their driver's license, and they had a chance to ask Le’i directly when the Police Commissioner appeared for a Senate hearing last Thursday and a hearing in the House the following day.
During the Senate committee hearing, Sen. Magalei Logovi’i pointed out that drivers are being issued receipts and this has been the case for one of his relatives, who is heading to the US next month.
Le’i confirmed that receipts are being issued and used because there are problems with the camera and signature pad, but Public Safety is working on trying to fix it.
He explained that the camera was fixed and was working properly for two weeks but the problem is that when it gets too hot, it won’t operate.
He said that the license issuance equipment, especially the camera, is tied to American Samoa being in compliance with stringent requirements of the federal Real ID Act, dealing with the issuance of state/territory driver’s licenses and identification cards.
Le'i told lawmakers that American Samoa must comply with the federal requirements by January 2018 and this means upgrading equipment - such as the camera - used to take photos for driver’s licenses.
He explained that purchasing a new camera at this point would be expensive but DPS is working on completing the Real ID compliance and finding ways “to carry us” at this time.
In the House, Le’i gave similar testimony, saying that DPS is working on securing equipment, which includes a camera and all accessories - to ensure full compliance with the Real ID Act.
As previously reported by Samoa News, it was last October the US Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) granted American Samoa an extension to fully comply with the Real ID Act, which has been federal law for several years.
The extension runs through the end of December this year.
For the duration of the extension, then Police Commissioner Save Liuato Tuitele was informed by USDHS that federal agencies may accept driver’s licenses and ID cards issued by American Samoa for official purposes in accordance with the phased enforcement schedule and existing agency policies.
Additionally, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a bureau of USDHS that deals with security checks at US airports, will begin Real ID enforcement for boarding commercial aircrafts on January 2018.
During a House committee hearing last August, Save told lawmakers that the cost involved to be in compliance with the Real ID Act “is humongous” for American Samoa.
He said the original USDHS funding to American Samoa was $300,000 but between 2008 and 2013 there were five change orders for the project increasing the total award to $1.9 million. Furthermore, the last payment from USDHS to American Samoa went to purchase items like computers and cameras for the system upgrade, and the full $1.9 million has been used. (See Samoa News Aug. 16 edition for details.)