ASPA takes steps to address its most serious problems
Following concerns raised by several faipule regarding ASPA’s operations, Chief Executive Officer of the American Samoa Power Authority Utu Abe Malae gave an explanation on ASPA’s move to outsource solid waste collection, during a hearing yesterday before the House ASPA Committee chaired by Rep Puletu Dick Koko. He also told House members that recent new hires were made to address serious problems within ASPA.
Concerning Solid Waster, or garbage collection, Utu explained that the Solid Waste division was transferred over to ASPA in 1995 in an executive order, given the many problems it was facing when the division was under the Department of Public Works.
Currently, Utu said ASPA has outsourced the work of solid waste collections to two local companies. Paramount is on a month-to-month contract and T&T has a six-month contract. Both companies have worked with ASPA in the past.
He told the faipule that ASPA pays about $18,000 to Paramount, while close to $25,000 is paid to T&T on a monthly basis.
Utu revealed that one of the major reasons for the outsourcing is that a lot of ASPA equipment for solid waste is out of commission.
He noted that this equipment had been purchased with federal grants.
“There are three major equipment compactors, and automated side loader, which is equipment that has only been used for two years, and now they’re out of order,” said Utu.
He said, it’s a shame that this equipment is only a few years old, yet it’s already out of commission — compared to equipment used by the private sector, which is still up and running despite its age.
Utu further explained that due to the emergency capacity, garbage had to be collected, and so he reached out to companies they have worked with in past years.
The challenge, however, that ASPA is now facing, according to Utu, is where to place the employees of the Solid Waste Division, adding that no one has been laid off, but instead they have been transferred to other divisions within ASPA. He assured the House members this is a temporary solution, while they seek a more permanent one.
Rep. Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava said that it appears the equipment is down and yet there is no one at ASPA who has the ability to maintain this equipment. Utu responded that equipment nowadays is very sophisticated, and it’s the electronic controls which are down. He said no one within ASPA has the expertise to repair this equipment.
Rep. Atualevao suggested that ASPA should invest in sending people for training so they can maintain their own equipment. Utu replied that, that has occurred in the past, but, in 2005 all the training programs were stopped. This included the training for linemen — the electricians who climb the electrical poles.
However, he noted that they have been working with the Department of interior and these needed trainings will be reinstated and paid for by DOI.
Rep. Atualevao then asked about the recent hiring of former ASPA employees to return to ASPA since Utu took office again.
Utu explained that these employees have certain expertise that is needed at ASPA — for instance, Nancy Mauga who is an expert in Material Management, is currently working to make sure contracts are in place and is also overseeing the warehouse.
Then there is Nancy Kupa, who has experience in Human Resources, and Utu said because there were discrepancies with ASPA’s personnel, Kupa was hired back.
He said Henry Satila was hired to manage the ASPA operations in Manu’a and Aunu’u, given the many problems they are facing.
The ASPA CEO also mentioned John Utu, who he said was assigned by the governor to work for ASPA.
Of Sherry Sele, Utu explained he reached out to Sele because she’s an expert in Customer Service. “The customer service at ASPA is horrible,” he said.
“I would use that word to describe customer service at ASPA because it’s very poor and I found out that I was losing my temper dealing with these decisions. We have 7,000 service orders outstanding since 2004,” said Utu. He explained these service order calls are about loose wires and dead light bulbs in the villages.
Utu said he met with Bluesky management and he told them that he was looking at hiring Sele for at least six months, and they responded that they are keeping Sele on their payroll, but she can assist ASPA in the customer service area. Utu also informed House members that ASPA will compensate Sele for her work, for the betterment of ASPA customer service.