Lolo names Save to head Office of Fraud Prevention
For the purpose of tackling fraud, waste and abuse arising within the American Samoa Government, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga has established the Office of Fraud Prevention and Investigation (OFPI) and assigned Save Liuato Tuitele as Director, via Executive Order issued on Tuesday.
Save, who started working in the new established office on Monday, was among the gubernatorial candidates during the general election last year. In a press conference yesterday, Gov. Lolo said the purpose of this office was to investigate fraud, waste and abuse within the government. “The idea is to prevent fraud, waste and abuse before it takes place, given that it’s an everyday activity in government no matter who is there,” he said.
Lolo defended the establishment of this office when asked if the creation of the OFPI office will duplicate the work already being carried out by OTICIDE officers and police officers of the Department of Public Safety. He said this office will focus mainly on preventing fraud, waste and abuse within the government, while police and OTICIDE officers will continue on with their duties already set forth.
“If there’s suspicion of possible fraud, they will look into it to determine if there’s a possible case and then it will be referred to the Attorney General’s office and DPS.”
A memorandum attached to the Executive Order, says that Save brings to his new role a distinguished career in law enforcement.
“Before returning to American Samoa where he served in recent years, first in the Department of Public Safety, and then as an Associate Judge of the High Court, Save retired from 30 years in the US Army with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer Five.
The memo states that Save’s career in the Army, first as a Military Police Investigator followed by positions of ever increasing responsibility in the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command make him an ideal and qualified candidate for this position.
In an interview with Samoa News yesterday at Save’s new office, he said he’s honored to have been selected by the governor to oversee this office, which fits with his appointment’s background.
“I’m glad that I’m back to doing what I’ve been doing the past 30 years, working mainly on fraud and corruption cases in the military was my specialty in the Army CID.”
According to Save, he was contacted by the governor, who gave him the proposal on the establishment of OFPI, to which he agreed, given that he wants to help the government any way he can.
“Since there’s a lot rumors about misuse and abuse of government money and the allegations of misappropriation of money, it’s the goal of our office to identify those areas within the government that are vulnerable to fraud and abuse and this office will come up with recommendations to the governor," said Save. “And if we come across cases where criminality is involved, they will investigate and present their case to the governor for his decision on the matter.”
He further explained that their office can also investigate those who conduct business with the government. Save said that currently there are two investigators working under his watch, however he intends to hire administrative assistants.
EXECUTIVE ORDER ESTABLISHING OFPI
According to the governor’s Executive Order, the American Samoa Government and the people of American Samoa have long suffered negative consequences arising from the perpetration of fraud, waste and abuse within our government.
“While these acts in no way reflect upon the vast majority of dedicated public servants serving the territory, they on the other hand have drained financial resources from their intended uses, resulted in disallowed grant expenditures, led to negative audit findings and the time and expense attendant to audit remediation, contributed to inefficiencies in government and consequent reduced levels of service delivery, and in some cases Federal intervention into local affairs in the absence of effective local responses,” states the Executive order. “…there is no reason that ASG needs to accept behavior from within its ranks that does not comport with the highest ethical and moral standards.”
Powers and Duties
According to the Executive Order, the powers and duties of the OFPI include:
* to investigate cases of fraud, waste and abuse occurring or which have occurred in the Executive Branch of the government;
* to collect and preserve potential evidence, in a form which will render it admissible in administrative or judicial proceedings:
* to summarize is investigatory efforts in the form of findings and conclusions in a manner suitable for referral to the Department of Human Resources or to law enforcement authorities, as the case may be for further proceedings;
* to routinely brief the governor of his designee on all investigations initiated and carried out;
* to liaise as necessary with the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Public Safety and the Director of Homeland Security to facilitate information collection and sharing on matters of mutual interest;
* to conduct periodic assessments of government policies and procedures and their practical application, to identify weaknesses of deficiencies that may result in economic loss to the government through negligence, lack of regulatory compliance, departure from standard operating procedures or violations of law;
These assessments will only be conducted after an entrance conference is conducted with the relevant department of agency director(s) advising the nature and scope of the assessment. At the conclusion of any such assessment, findings and recommendations shall be issued in written form and shared with the relevant department or agency director(s) in a formal exit conference.
According to the Executive Order, Director Save is to be provided with the necessary staff to carry out duties assigned, and this may include augmentation by personnel from law enforcement agencies including the AG’s office, DPS and DHS. Further, OFPI investigative staff shall be issued with suitable credentials including photographic identification.
The Executive Order also pointed out that all departments, agencies and offices of the Executive Branch of the government are to lend their full support to the efforts of the OFPI.