Fono News

fili@samoanews.com

FRANK GAISOA CONFIRMED AS MEMBER OF RETIREMENT FUND BOARD

The governor’s nomination of local businessman Frank Gaisoa to the ASG Employees' Retirement Fund board of trustees is officially confirmed by the Fono, following last Friday’s unanimous 13-0 Senate vote.

The House gave its full endorsement last week Tuesday.

Prior to the Senate vote, Gaisoa appeared last Friday morning before the Senate Retirement Committee for a confirmation hearing, where he faced no questions, but was advised by senators to ensure that the Retirement Fund is secure and safeguarded for both current retirees, and future ones.

Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua told Gaisoa that one of the biggest challenges faced by the board is addressing the need to increase contributions to the Fund because expenditures are higher.

He said the Retirement Fund reported last year - and this year - that it was sending a proposed measure to the Fono to increase the contribution rate, but nothing has yet been received.

He requested that Gaisoa and the board expedite this issue in order to address the low contribution rate to ensure the Fund is protected in the future. He added that fund investments are doing well but the contribution rate needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Lawmakers from both the Senate and House who are members of their respective retirement committees and attended a Fund meeting in Honolulu early this year, said the board was planning to submit a proposal to hike the contribution rate.

It should be noted that any proposal is sent to the Governor’s Office, which then submits the measure to the Fono. Current law states that the employer, ASG, pays 8% while the employee contributes 3%.

Sen. Magalei Logovi’i, who is vice chair of the committee and a former Retirement Fund board of trustee member, explained that Gaisoa is the private sector member appointed to the board.

Magalei believes Gaisoa has the ability and knowledge to protect and safeguard the Fund, after many years as a local businessman, prudent in protecting and safe guarding his family-owned businesses.

Gaisoa replaces Beaver Ho Ching, who tendered his resignation, effective Oct. 31st this year. Ho Ching has a new position in Apia, Samoa with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, according to the governor.  Gaisoa will serve a full five-year term which commences Nov. 1st.

MANU’A HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS

Education director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga says Manu’a High School, which has an enrollment of 48 students, is fully staffed with teachers specializing in content areas like math and science.

She explained that the high school had two contract teachers  (for JROTC and vocational education) who just resigned.

Matagi-Tofiga was responding to Samoa News questions following Manu’a Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua's claims at last Wednesday's Senate session that Manu’a High School has only three teachers and there is no JROTC instructor. He said he is very disappointed and saddened that ASDOE didn’t make sure that the high school has a full teaching staff before the start of the new school year.

Matagi-Tofiga said all three elementary schools on Manu’a are fully staffed with teachers. She shared that the enrollment for Faleasao is 64;  Fitiuta, 46 and Olosega, 62.

During the ASDOE’s FY 2018 Budget review two weeks ago, Matagi-Tofiga said the vast majority of schools are well staffed, except for just a few positions that need to be filled, as teachers continue to resign every week.

She said no classroom is left unattended, or without a teacher, with school counselors and principals stepping in if a teacher is absent.

FY 2018 BUDGET HEARING WNDING DOWN

Fono Joint Budget Committee hearings are winding down with the review of the Fono’s FY 2018 budget set for today. Thereafter the joint committee is expected to start debates and discussions on the entire ASG basic budget but it's unclear whether this will also happen today or later this week.

The joint committee hearings during the past 7 days had focused mainly on questions targeting the basic budget. One of the issues that surfaced during the hearings, and raised with several directors by Sen. Fonoti Tafa’ifa Aufata, has to do with ASG vehicles, with the Tualauta female senator insisting that departments and offices not use government vehicles for personal reasons such as shopping, taking family members to church, or family outings.

She reminded directors that less use of ASG vehicles means less money spent on gasoline.

Samoa News points out that the governor has raised several times during his cabinet meetings, the problems with using ASG vehicles for non-government purposes. Lolo has voiced concerns regarding the increase in fuel consumption for the government's fleet.

During an emergency cabinet meeting on Aug. 30th, the governor noted the rise in the volume of fuel consumption resulting in the rise in expenditures. He asked directors to review and implement necessary measures to control gasoline usage.

The governor, again, reminded directors that after-hours use of the government vehicles is restricted to directors, and true emergencies or mandated services must have an after-hours pass issued by the Governor’s Office.

During the budget hearings, Fonoti questioned one director if windows are tinted on her department’s vehicles, to make it dark inside, saying darkness is where sins exists. This prompted giggles from many of the lawmakers  as well as others in the Senate gallery, but Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie explained that tinting windows is to keep the inside of the car cool from the hot sun.

For those ASG departments and agencies that get federal funding, Fonoti was adamant that they must be honest with spending federal grants and that any left over federal monies should be returned to the federal grantor unless the grantor says otherwise.

“Be honest,” Fonoti would insist to directors, saying that she doesn’t want to see local residents being taken off-island and charged for misusing federal money.

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