Governor's nominee to head DBAS rejected by Senate
The governor’s nomination of Ruth Matagi-Fa’atili as president of the government-owned Development Bank of American Samoa was yesterday rejected by the Senate in a vote of 9 “yes” and 5 “no”. She needed 10 or more “yes” votes for approval.
Because the vote is by secret ballot — which is in accordance with local law, when it comes to confirmation of nominees to cabinet posts and ASG commissions — it's unclear as to who voted against the nominee and why. Under local law, only the Senate can review and vote on the nomination of the Development Bank president.
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga now has the choice of re-nominating Matagi-Fa’atili to the post in the next sitting of the Fono in July, or he can make a new appointment to submit in the current session.
The DBAS president's post has been vacant since Lolo stepped down in early 2012 for his successful run to be governor of American Samoa.
Prior to the Senate vote, the nominee appeared before the Senate Government Operations Committee, chaired by Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli, for a confirmation hearing which lasted about 25 minutes. During this hearing, the Senate gallery was packed with the nominee’s friends and family members there for support.
While the hearing was mostly positive comments by the Senators, an interesting exchange did occur during the hearing, when Sen. Gaea Pelefoti Failautusi noted he had received certain documents and wanted to ask questions pertaining to those documents.
The committee chair however pointed out that questions should be focused on documents received by the committee from the governor’s office pertaining to the nominee; and that any “other” documents held by a member are not official until they go through the committee chairman. Galea’i stated, according to Senate Rules the chair oversees all hearings.
Gaea said the documents are important and pressed on with his question, asking what the nominee is going to do about “Utu — regarding his being a career service or contract employee”.
Gaea didn’t elaborate further, but Galeai informed the nominee not to answer the question, because this type of decision is made by the bank’s board and Galeai repeated the same statement again.
Galeai then asked committee members not to push this particular issue on the president-nominee, as this is an issue that should be dealt with by the board.
(Gaea is referring to the DBAS in-house legal counsel Fainu’ulelei L.P.F. Alailima-Utu, who in a Jan. 30 letter to the DBAS chairman and the president-nominee requested career service status instead of his current status as a contract employee. See Samoa News story Feb. 11th for more details on the letter).
Gaea pushed on, saying that while it’s a board decision, the management of the bank is handled and overseen by the bank president. He then stated briefly that he has questions on the 1602 (the federally funded housing construction program for low income families).
Galeai again interjected, telling the committee that questions must focus on what’s been presented to the committee for review and discussion — and this includes any documents from the governor’s office or information already considered official for review by the committee.
He also said that any specific questions about the workings of the bank should be directed to the board or to the bank itself.
(At this time, DBAS board chairman, Sen. Nua Saoluaga had not yet arrived at the hearing. Nua arrived just as the farewell speeches were made at the end of the hearing, as he had attended an earlier Fono-related meeting).
Galeai advised the nominee that if she is confirmed by the Senate, to not listen to just one board member who wanted things done. He said that there is a problem, which he has seen over the years with entities governed by boards, where one board member would push an issue with management without the consent or consensus of the board.
Galeai said the board oversees and governs the bank, so any decision handed down to management should come from the entire board — not just one board member, pushing his or her agenda.
Sen. Faletagoa’i I. Tuiolemotu urged the nominee to follow the directives of the governor and the board, instead of doing what she wants, adding this is something that has happened with other cabinet members confirmed by the Fono. (He didn't give any examples).
He also reminded the nominee that DBAS is there to help low income people, and this thought was echoed by other senators, who also asked for equal treatment of all applicants. The nominee was also asked to look into matters regarding people who are still waiting for approval of their loan applications.
Responding to two specific questions from the committee, Matagi-Fa’atili said the highest amount for a home repair loan is $50,000 and the highest military loan level is $417,000.