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Once again, no SIC quorum cancels 1602 hearing

Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie was prepared to be the first witness testifying yesterday before the Senate Investigative Committee (SIC) probe into the federally funded Section 1602 low income housing program administered by the Development Bank of American Samoa (DBAS).

However, SIC chairman Lualemaga Faoa made the public announcement that due to the lack of a quorum, the hearing would be postponed until further notice.

SIC had scheduled three days of hearings, beginning yesterday (Tuesday) to Thursday tomorrow) for owners of incomplete 1602 projects. Various witnesses were to testify on each day and all owners of projects showing "incomplete" as of the DBAS report of Sept. 26 were sent subpoenas, according to the SIC last week.

Prior to the start of yesterday’s hearing, Gaoteote was overheard telling his staff and others that he wanted to be the first to testify during the hearing and he was prepared to give testimony. He repeated the same words after the hearing was canceled.

Besides Lualemaga the only other senators present at the start of the hearing were SIC members Paogofie Fiaigoa and Fuamatu J.V. Fuamatu. Also present was SIC legal counsel Henry Kappel. The SIC needs four senators to meet a quorum of the seven-member committee.

Lualemaga says that under SIC rules, “we would need to have a quorum” to conduct any SIC hearings; and he ruled that this hearing is to be cancelled until further notice. He also addressed the witnesses who remained in the gallery, in Samoan, that they would be advised of the next hearing date.

In a notice sent out by SIC late yesterday morning, Lualemaga said it was a “unanimous decision” by SIC members in attendance yesterday to dis-continue 1602 hearings until further notice. The notice also says that witnesses for today (Oct. 17) and tomorrow (Oct. 18) “are further excused from appearing until further notice.”

Yesterday was the second SIC hearing on the Section 1602 postponed due to the lack of a quorum while witnesses were already in the Senate gallery. The first was the June 27 hearing, where then DBAS president Lolo M. Moliga and American Samoa Economic Stimulus and Recovery Office (ASESRO) executive director Pat Galeai were subpoenaed to testify on the Section 1602 project, which provided American Samoa with some $30 million for low income housing.

The ASESRO interim report signed by Galeai and dated Oct. 2012 states in part that 132 projects were funded under Section 1602 and the latest correspondence from DBAS notes only 58% of the projects are completed. Additionally, 56 projects remain incomplete with no funds left in the 1602 program.

See Monday’s edition of Samoa News on the interim report and spreadsheet for more details or click here for link to report.