Port Director: Still money in tug boat, barges project
Port Administration director Matagi Ray McMoore has testified that as far as he knows, the tugboat and barges for the Manu’a harbor dredging project still has money available; and he was the one who began an internal review of then Port engineer Henry Ledoux — not his deputy director.
Matagi, along with Chief Customs Officer Glenn Lefiti appeared yesterday before the Senate Investigative Committee (SIC) who subpoenaed the two officials for sworn testimonies as well as to provide documents relating to the tugboat/barges project, funded by the $20 million loan proceeds being probed by the SIC.
After the pair were sworn in, SIC chairman Sen. Lualemaga Faoa asked if the witnesses had brought the subpoenaed documents. Matagi replied he had only returned to the territory Tuesday night, and that all documents relating to this project at the Port were submitted long ago to the Attorney General’s Office, after the Marisco Ltd. lawsuit at the federal court in Honolulu surfaced.
Lefiti, however, provided several customs documents, including clearance paperwork for the tugboat Sailele, and for the one vehicle that had been sent to the territory via air freight.
Matagi testified that when he joined Port as director in 2008, the task force was already established for this project and he became a member. He said task force members at the time included Capt. Wally Thompson and Terry Conden — the two individuals with a lot of experience in boats and vessels, and the task force depended on their expertise for the project.
Based on testimonies before the SIC, the fourth task force member at the beginning was Fanene So’oto, the special assistant to the port director. Matagi said task force members were approved by the governor.
“THERE ‘IS’ STILL MONEY”
Public information is that this project was initially allocated $3 million, but has since ballooned to just over $4 million.
However, responding to committee questions, Matagi revealed that the estimated cost of the project and its budget was $5 million and as far as he knows, this amount had not been used up, and therefore there ‘is’ money still available.
Of the $5 million, he said $2 million was for the dredging project and this covers the two barges and the excavator, while $3 million was for the tugboat purchase.
Port Administration deputy director Chris King testified last week to the SIC that the Coast Guard has not approved use of the barges, which were purchased to dredge the Manu’a harbors. He said the excavator would sit on one barge while the other was for “spoilers” (or to support a dredging process).
At yesterday’s hearing Matagi said Thompson and Conden — as the “experts” on the task force — carried out the search of the vessels for ASG and found them in Hawai’i, therefore, there was no need to travel to the mainland. He also said that he was told there was enough money for the purchase and refurbishment of the vessels.
Several times during the hearing, Matagi was asked by SIC members as to who made the decision to purchase the tug boat and barges along with the excavator and why the repairs were made by Marisco.
Matagi repeated the same answers — that the recommendations were made by the experts on the task force, Thompson and Conden. He also said that he heard that it was cheaper to buy a used tugboat (the now Sailele) and have it repaired, instead of buying a new tugboat that would be very expensive.
Additionally, he learned that Marisco had done previous work for ASG and Thompson and Conden had recommended Marisco.
He explained that Conden was the ASG engineer and the representative in Honolulu working with Marisco on the repairs and refurbishment of the tugboat and barges.
It was raised during the hearing that Carlos Sanchez, the governor’s representative on fishery and marine matters, had testified before SIC last week that these barges are for lakes and rivers, but not for use in open ocean.
Matagi said Thompson believed that the barges would serve their purpose, which was the dredging of Manu’a’ harbors.
At least three or four times during the hearing, which lasted over two hours, Matagi repeated the barges intended use is for the dredging in Manu’a.
Sanchez told SIC last week that Conden was a “double agent” who was getting paid by ASG as an engineer but also by the Marisco shipyard.
When asked about this during yesterday’s hearing, Matagi said he only learned about this whole affair during one of his meetings in Honolulu with the Marisco owner, who asked if Conden worked for ASG, and he answered yes.
Thereafter, according to Matagi, Conden’s service was terminated, and he was replaced on the task force by Ledoux, who is also a port engineer. Later in the hearing, he explained that Conden was actually billing Marisco for services and being paid, while he was also the ASG representative in Honolulu on the project and was being paid by ASG too.
He said Conden was terminated over this issue as well as the “excessive” order of work done for the project. He said the issue of Conden billing Marisco and getting paid was referred to the Attorney General’s Office in order to recover any ASG money lost, but he does not know the status of this matter.
When asked as to how much Ledoux collected for leasing to another company in Honolulu the newly purchased ASG excavator, Matagi could not recall the actual amount but guessed it was around $34,000 — and the vendor who leased the excavator made the check payment directly to Ledoux.
SIC recalled for Matagi testimony last week by Port Administration deputy director Chris King, who stated under oath that once the incident about Ledoux surfaced — which was when King was acting director — a board of inquiry was formed to investigate Ledoux.
King said the board’s recommendation was to terminate Ledoux, but any other action thereafter was no longer his responsibility because Matagi had returned and was back on the job.
However, Matagi yesterday gave his own version, saying it was he who had directed an internal probe when the Ledoux issue came to his attention, and it was not a board who conducted the inquiry.
He said results of the review were then sent to the Treasury and Human Resources Departments, for them to deduct from Ledoux’s last pay check any left over paid leave and retirement money due to ASG.
However, Matagi said he does not know if any money was ever recovered from Ledoux, who left Port Administration for the ASG Shipyard Service Authority.
Testimonies heard by the SIC is that Ledoux resigned from Port and was with the Shipyard Services for a short time before he left, and is reportedly living off-island.
Sens. Fuata Dr. Tagiilima Iatala and Mauga T. Asuega recalled for Matagi testimonies by Sanchez that government money spent on the purchase and refurbishment of the tugboat and barges were much higher than the current value of these ASG vessels following an assessment by a surveyor.
“All this money wasted. All this government money wasted,” said Fuata.
Next week Samoa News will report on other issues raised during the hearing.