Lolo: Businesses complaining about unpaid gov’t bills, show proof!
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga told media reps during a press conference last week that he wants businesses that are complaining about unpaid government bills to identify themselves and provide proof of their unpaid invoices.
Lolo was reacting to statements from business owners that the government and the governor should stop hiring more employees but instead, pay up on what they owe to the private sector.
According to Lolo, many of the government’s unpaid bills were procured outside of the law. He said all bills the government pays on time are done according to the law and the reason why the issue keeps popping up (transactions done without authority) is because directors are not doing their job.
For example, the governor explained, a director goes out and gets ink and other office supplies without going through the proper process. The same goes for purchases at lumberyards, where things are being bought without going through the proper channels in accordance with the law.
Lolo mentioned CBT as an example, saying all invoices the company is trying to get payment for, were made outside of the law, and the government didn’t have any knowledge of it.
As another example, Lolo said someone bought a machine from a local business and had it shipped to Manu’a without ASG’s knowledge, and the government is being billed $70,000- $80,000.
"All these types of purchases were done outside of the law, and they were not in the government’s budget," he said, adding that even though the proper procedure wasn't followed, the government is still trying to find ways to pay these bills "because we want to help our local businesses.”
According to the governor, while some businesses are complaining about unpaid bills, he believes it’s their fault to begin with, for not going through the proper procurement process and the law.
When asked if directors should be penalized for the illegal and un-budgeted purchases, Lolo said, “Sure, they are the ones that should be made to answer.”
At last month's cabinet meeting, Lolo said part of his duty as the territory’s leader, is to ensure the government is creating more jobs for the people. This was in response to complaints from some in the private sector, who have accused the government of hiring more people than it can pay.
Members of the private sector told Samoa News last week that they disagree with the governor’s statement. One business owner said he recalls during Lolo’s campaign for the first election, the statement that creating more jobs in the private sector, would be the key to developing American Samoa’s economy.
“I believe it’s wrong for the governor to allow more people to work for the government when ASG cannot afford to pay them all, while also not paying bills to the private sector for supplies and materials.
“It's really sad to hear that our governor is telling his cabinet that his role as the country's leader is to provide more jobs for our people when in fact, the government owes a lot of dollars to the private sector,” said a business owner who didn't want to be identified because he does business with the government.
Another business owner who wanted to remain anonymous told Samoa News that he couldn’t believe the government is still hiring, as there are four, five or six people with the same position, doing the same work that one person can do.
“I agree that our people deserve to have jobs to care for their families, but not hiring someone who is not fit for the job, does not qualify, or was given the job because of election connections or future campaigns,” said one business owner.