It's official: “There is no refund”… for years of OMV overcharges

AG: A refund is not mentioned in the bill so there is no reason to discuss it
fili@samoanews.com

“There is no refund. There is no refund,” declared Senate Transportation Committee chairman Sen. Paepae Iosefa Faiai, to residents who claim to have been overcharged over the years when renewing registration for their vehicles.

Paepae’s public declaration was made towards the end of the yesterday’s committee hearing on an Administration bill seeking to amend provisions of local law regarding vehicle fee registrations, by adding $12 per ton of weight or fraction thereof, when a car is brought in for registration renewal.

Currently the law only states that the renewal for motor vehicles is $32; but over the years people have also been paying $12 per ton of weight for renewals, which is not stated in the statute. 

During a Senate hearing last month on this same issue, Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale, said there are no refunds or reimbursements for those who have been overpaying all these years, and he thanked them for their support of the government.

At yesterday’s committee hearing on the administration’s bill, Paepae asked, “So no refunds at all?” on this issue which so many people are complaining about, to which Talauega responded that this matter — referring to the refund — is not mentioned in the bill so there is no reason to discuss it.

Paepae then stated at least three times, there are “no refunds”.

At the outset of the hearing, Talauega said he fully supports the bill, which clarifies provisions of the law that were not very clear.

Another proposed amendment in the bill, is for “half (50%) of tonnage fees collection... be placed in a road maintenance fund to be used for road repair.”

The committee wanted to know what happens to the other 50% of the tonnage fees collected — where does it go — because it’s not clearly stated in the bill.

Talauega responded that the Fono can make changes to the bill, including the specific use or allocation of the other 50%, adding that the Fono employs experienced legal counsels to make changes to the bill, as senators see fits.

However, he said that if the Senate wants him to make the change, he would do so and return it.

Overall, there was overwhelming support of the bill in the Senate, except senators want to make sure the language of the measure is clear on the other 50% before moving forward.

Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson was among the witnesses requested by the Senate. However, Deputy Police Commissioner for Police Operations, Falanaipupu Ta’ase Sagapolutele represented Le’i, who informed the committee that Le’i had already left for Guam to attend the conference of police commissioners from the Pacific, before DPS received notice of the hearing.

BACKGROUND

Samoa News should point out that during a hearing last month of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on federal deductions of lawmakers allowances, Sen. Magalei Logovi’i voiced to ASG Treasurer Uelinitone Tonumaipea the government policy when it comes to reimbursing the public if they are overcharged; for example, the registration renewal of vehicles at the Office of Motor Vehicles that appears to have overcharged car owners for many years.

Of note, Magalei, who served as ASG Treasurer during the Togiola Administration, informed Tonumaipea that he was not pleased or happy with the Attorney General’s response to senators, especially when the matter does not fall under the AG’s jurisdiction, but the purview of the ASG Treasury.

According to the senator, he didn’t want to counter the AG’s response nor correct the AG during his response  at the time, but he wanted to wait until Tonumaipea appeared for an already scheduled hearing for a direct response on the matter for all senators.

Magalei said that only when the Treasurer has a different interpretation of the law, is when the AG’s opinion is sought.

So to his understanding, said Magalei, if a person brings a receipt to show that the government owes that individual a reimbursement, then a refund is made.

“Correct me if I am wrong,” Magalei asked Tonumaipea, who acknowledged that Magalei’s statement is true, saying that a person who overpays the government — for example, a registration fee — should get a refund on the overpaid amount.

Unless the person agrees to use the amount, to be refunded, as a credit towards a future renewal, Tonumaipea said and reiterated that the requirement is that a person is reimbursed the overpaid amount.

Magalei said that in order to get a refund, a person must provide a receipt — as proof of over payment — and Tonumaipea agreed.

The police commissioner has maintained that the issue of ‘refunds’ for the overcharge is not in his jurisdiction, and referred the matter to the AG.

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