Fono News

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DBAS BOARD MEMBER GETS SENATE ENDORSEMENT

In a unanimous 13-0 vote, the Senate on Monday confirmed the governor’s nomination of Talalemotu Mauga to the Development Bank of American Samoa board of directors.

Mauga, who has served as Legislative Financial Officer for many years, is the last DBAS board member to go through the confirmation process, which is subject to Senate confirmation only. He was off island when Senate committee confirmation hearings were held earlier this year in April.

Prior to the Monday vote, Mauga appeared earlier in the day for a very brief confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee where Sen. Paepae Iosefa Faiai offered an important recommendation to the nominee. That is, to remember low income families when the apply for home repair loans.

Paepae claimed that a $10,000 loan application goes through much scrutiny as if the applicant was requesting a $100,000 loan. “Love and help our people,” Paepae told Mauga.

Other DBAS board members are: Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua (chairman), Muagututia Lepei Fa’aola, Fiapaipai Fruean, Gi Malala, Vaiausia Yandall, Eseta Sataua, Rev. Fred Mamea and Rep. Timusa Tini Lam Yuean.

Each member serves a two-year term, according to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s Apr. 5, 2017 nomination letter sent to the Senate.

ASG TERRITORIAL AUDITOR POSITION QUESTIONED

At last week Friday’s Fono Joint Budget Committee hearings, several lawmakers continued to question the Territorial Audit Office’s deputy auditor,  Liua Fatuesi on why the post of Territorial Auditor is vacant while the office’s annual budget, keeps showing a salary for the position.

Under local law, the governor appoints and the Fono confirms the territorial auditor, who serves a four-year term. Certified public accountant (CPA), Robert Dantini was the last person to hold the post. He left the territory in 2014 before his contract expired. One major qualification required under the law is that a Territorial Auditor is a CPA.

Fatuesi explained that in accordance with the law, the decision to recruit and hire a territorial auditor rests with the governor, and the post  - which requires the applicant to be a CPA - has been vacant for five years and the salary is included in the annual budget in the event the governor wants to start recruiting for a Territorial Auditor.

Fatuesi said the Territorial Audit Office still conducts audits of ASG agencies and certifies those results, such as cash count. However, the office cannot certify financial statements because only a CPA can do that, said Fatuesi, who added that many financial statements for ASG entities are certified by a CPA that conducts ASG audits.

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman, Sen. Magalei Logovi’i, who is also co-chair of the joint budget hearings, explained for the committee the local statute which established the Territorial Audit Office, an independent ASG agency, which is much different than other ASG entities.

He acknowledged that the governor appoints and the Fono confirms a territorial auditor, but the Fono also has a say if the governor moves to terminate the territorial auditor. In other words, a governor’s recommendation to terminate a territorial auditor, requires a two-thirds vote from both the Senate and House.

SENATE PASSES SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY AMENDMENT

The Senate on Tuesday gave unanimous approval, via a 13-0 vote, on an administration bill seeking to amend the American Samoa Sex Offenders' Registration and Notification Act.

The amendment allows American Samoa to be in substantial compliance with the requirements of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

Under the territory’s current law, Tier II offenders may have their registration periods reduced to 10 years if they maintain a clean record for 10 consecutive years, but this provision is not in compliance with SORNA, according to the governor.

Lolo said the proposed amendment “will allow the government to continue monitoring individuals who have committed more severe sexual crimes.”

The Senate’s expedited approval of the measure followed a committee hearing last Friday, where several senators voiced strong support of the bill, after Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale stressed the importance of protecting children from being victims of sexual assault.

There are currently more than 100 sex offenders in the local sex offender registry, said Talauega referring to the American Samoa Sex Offender Registry (ASSOR), which is overseen by his office. (See Samoa News Sept. 11th edition for details.)

The bill now goes to the House for consideration. The House has its own identical version pending in committee.

RESOLUTION FOR BEN LAUSEN

Senators approved on Tuesday a resolution which conveys the deepest and most sincere condolences of the Legislature and the people of American Samoa to Mrs. Lupelele Leialoha Letuli Lausen and the Lausen family on the passing of Olopao Pubi Benjamin Lausen.

The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Taua’a S. Vaouli also pays tribute to Olopao’s service to his country, family, and the people of American Samoa.

The resolution notes that from a very young age, Ben, as Olopao is known to many, knew his passion was to serve others and the military provided this avenue to fulfill his potential, by joining the US Army right after high school and serving in the Vietnam War in two separate campaigns.

He then became an Army Recruiter of the Pacific Basin where he earned the Gold Recruiter Badge with three-sapphire stars for his excellent service. His extensive military service included a period of service at the US Embassy in Greece.

In the territory, Ben served as the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) instructor at both Leone and Fagaitua high schools. He later became the American Samoa JROTC Program Operations Manager, a post he held until he passed away peacefully on July 28th, 2017 surrounded by his loved ones in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He attended Marist Brothers School in Atu’u, Chanel College in Samoa, and is a 1969 graduate of Samoana High School. He went on to graduate from the National University in California and the University of Phoenix, according to the resolution, which states that he is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

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