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Rapiscan container scanner to be “handed over” next week

Main concern of Rep. Faimealelei: Government needs the money from revenue

The large scanning equipment for containers is expected to be “handed over” to the government before the end of next week, with officials from the manufacturer to arrive on island early next week to repair the machine, according to ASG acting Treasurer Ueligitone Tonumaipea in testimony before a House committee yesterday.

Answering questions about the status of the container scanner, the acting Treasurer pointed to the delay being mainly an issue of delayed purchase, due to the Fono questioning the purchase, while the Territory’s hospital needed the money.

During the committee hearing, Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Allen voiced his concerns with the large amount of money to purchase the scanners for the territory’s port of entries and there is still evidence that the scanners are not operational. He questioned the reason for the delay in getting the scanner project up and running.

He said he raised this issue two weeks ago and was not satisfied with the information provided in the House and wanted to know the reasons for the scanners not being in operation. “We need the money, you need the money, the government needs the money,” he said, pointing to the scanners’ value as a new revenue source for the government.

In response, Tonumaipea first pointed out that while $10 million was approved for the rapiscan project purchase, but following concerns from the Fono, especially the Senate, the governor put a hold on the purchase, and said to instead look first at the LBJ Medical Center and their financial needs.

(The $10 million is from the American Samoa Economic Development Authority issued bonds and senators voiced complaints over the large amount for purchase of the scanners, while the hospital is in dire need of financial support.)

Thereafter, said Tonumaipea, it was discovered that LBJ needed $2.9 million to pay some of their accounts payable. He emphasized that these are the only things that can be paid with the bond money and this was the only money allowed by the bond advisers to pay such expenses.

After the money was given to the hospital, the governor then gave the okay to use the remaining money for the scanner purchase project, he said, adding that the scanners were ordered from a company in Great Britain.

Prior to putting a hold on the rapiscan project, Tonumaipea, who is also chairman of the ASEDA board of directors, said the order was already placed to the company for the scanners and the order was set aside for American Samoa.

However, after the company received word that the purchase was put on hold, the company went ahead and sold the scanner equipment to other countries wanting them.

And when the governor gave the okay to proceed forward with the scanner project purchase, the equipment that was set aside for American Samoa had already gone to another country, he explained.

According to the acting Treasury, the needed parts of the container scanner are all on island and officials of the Great Britain company are scheduled to be on island next week Monday to carry out the installation process.

Based on the current schedule, the scanner will be “handed over” to ASG on Feb. 9, he said, adding that two of the scanners are currently operational.

Chief of Customs, Moetulu’i Sipili Fuiava told Samoa News last month that Customs was waiting for one more part from the manufacturer of the rapiscan for containers to arrive on island and then the equipment would be expected to be up and running the middle of this month.

Customs Division is part of the Treasury Department, headed by the Treasurer.