Fono back in session deliberating admin proposals including bonds and TBAS
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Legislative proposals from the administration have been submitted to the Fono for review, when lawmakers returned to work this past Monday after a 4-week recess.
PETROLEUM STORAGE FACILITIES
Acting Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga has sent to the Fono for approval a bill to increase the current charges for use of the government petroleum storage facilities.
According to the bill, the American Samoa Economic Development Authority (ASEDA) recently issued its Series 2018 Bonds. These bonds were necessary to fund important government projects including the completion of the Fono building and the purchase of an interest in the Hawaiki submarine cable.
"The funds allocated in this bill have not yet been allocated in the current budget, including scanner fees, a portion of which was previously used for the FAA cost match. It is appropriate to establish earmarks that will sufficiently fund debt service to ensure that the American Samoa Government (ASG) does not default on the bonds."
The current fee of 6-cents per gallon paid by fuel suppliers, is to be increased by 2-cents and the additional cost is to go towards paying the debt service of the 2018 ASEDA bonds. Upon full repayment of said bonds, the revenues shall be deposited in the general fund and shall be available for appropriation by the Legislature.
This is incorporated into the Maximum Allowable Price for fuel, which means the added cost will be reflected in what customers pay for fuel products.
The bill also provides that 50% of revenues from scanner fees is to be earmarked for the ASEDA 2018 bonds series repayment, and the balance goes to maintenance of all scanner equipment. Upon full payment of the bonds, all revenues are to be deposited in the General Fund and available for appropriation by the Fono.
The bill, sponsored by Vice Speaker Fetu Fetui Jr., was introduced in the House this week, and is now transferred to the House Government Operations Committee, chaired by Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Fu’e Allen.
The administration’s bill on the 2018 bond series was introduced in the Senate yesterday and assigned to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Magalei Logovi’i who has set a hearing for tomorrow.
Magalei said the committee will first hear from ASG Treasurer, Uelinitone Tonumaipe’a who will explain and provide other details of the government’s $3.9 million surplus at the close of fiscal year 2018. The committee will also question FY 2017.
Since Tonumaipe’a is also the chairman of the American Samoa Economic Development Authority (ASEDA), which issued the bond, Magalei said the committee will hear testimony on the new administration bill, which reallocates revenues to pay the 2018 bonds.
Magalei said the committee wants to know the specifics of how the $52 million in proceeds from the bond sale is distributed.
As previously reported by Samoa News — based on ASG documents — $15.36 million is allocated for the new Fono building; over $28.33 million to the American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority for the Hawaiki cable; $4.68 million for the Debt Service Reserve Account; and over $1.48 million for cost of issuance.
TBAS BOARD NOMINEES
The administration is also seeking for Fono confirmation new nominees for the Board of Directors of the Territorial Bank of American Samoa.
The nominees are Manu’a Chen, Olivia Reid, Leilua Stevenson and former members Ruth Matagi Faatili, president of the Development Bank of American Samoa, and Steve Watson, chief counsel for the governor.
According to the communication, all of the members are nominated for 4-year terms. Stilling serving on the Board are Papali’i Lauli’i Alofa and Salaia Gabbard.
“All of these individuals have extensive experience in the business, finance or banking fields. Their combined expertise will help guide TBAS at this crucial time of growth," said Gov. Lolo Moliga.
“I am confident that these nominees are an asset to the TBAS Board. I respectfully solicit your support and that of your colleagues in providing your consent and approval of these nominations.”