Road Maintenance Fund still not DPW controlled according to director
The Road Maintenance Fund was established to help the Department of Public Works carry out road repairs in the territory, but Public Works director Taeaotui Punaofo Tilei says there is not much his office can do because the Fund remains under control of ASG Treasurer Magalei Logovi’i. The fund is replenished with gasoline excise taxes.
However, Magalei dismissed any claims he controls the purse-strings for the Fund and said a thorough explanation has been provided to Taeaotui in the past.
Taeaotui appeared Wednesday before the Senate Public Works Committee chaired by Sen. Letalu Maui, who called the hearing following concerns from senators regarding the deteriorating condition of the roads, with so many pot holes, especially on the Nu’uuli/Airport road which is currently in Phase I for reconstruction.
Regarding the many pot holes in the territory, the DPW director told senators that it’s now going on three years since the Road Maintenance Fund, which by law is to be overseen by Public Works, has remained under the Treasurer’s control—and it’s to the Treasurer where everything dealing with this Fund goes, including for payment.
With everything going through Treasury, that further delays getting payments out for services and McConnell Dowell — which has hot tar for road repairs — wants payment in advance, said Taeaotui.
He also pointed out it has been five months since Public Works has been working to get its hot tar mix machine fixed — it is currently still awaiting spare parts from off island.
Taeaotui said DPW has identified a new local company that can provide a cold-mix tar, and hopes this shipment will arrive before the end of this month. He reiterated that there are some debts with McConnell Dowell and the reason for the company wanting upfront payment.
During the 2-hour hearing, senators said the law is clear: this account is separate and under the control of Public Works and urged Taeaotui to take the account way from the Treasurer.
Taeaotui told senators that he recalls meeting with Magalei five or six times, including a meeting attended by the governor, who stated this Fund should be transferred to Public Works. Taeaotui said he continues to ask the Treasurer about the Fund and he even raised this issue in at least two cabinet meetings.
He said the only good news so far is that Treasury Department has approved a $36,000 payment for the cold mix tar from the local company, whose name Taeaotui could not identify off-hand.
The Senate president suggested the committee look at bringing in Magalei, to find out why he has control of this account and why is there a delay in providing payments to vendors to assist with road repairs.
When asked for his reaction, Magalei said yesterday that the checking account for the Fund stays with Treasury, just like all checking accounts belonging to other ASG agencies, which are separate from the general fund.
He said DPW still conducts purchase of materials and supplies, and invoices are then reviewed before checks are signed, as long as there are available funds and there is justification. He said his signature as well as Taeaotui’s signature are on the checking account, and he does not have sole control over the Road Maintenance Fund account.
Magalei said he has explained the process several times to Taeaotui and even did so during a meeting with the governor.
It was in 2009 when Magalei transferred all checking accounts established by departments to come under the purview of the Treasurer — who also signs these checks — to ensure compliance following previous problems with overspending and no proper account of the spending.
ROAD MAINTENANCE FUND FY2012 BUDGET
Taeaotui prepared the fiscal year 2012 budget for this Fund, which was submitted to the Fono for review. The Fund is proposing $638,000 for the new fiscal year, compared to $605,000 in FY 2011 and shows “actual” collection of $489,116 in FY 2010, according to the budget document.
According to the FY 2012 budget proposal, $106,000 is allocated for materials and supplies with the largest expenditure of $81,000 in maintenance materials, such as cinder fill, asphalt, spare parts etc.
There is a $20,000 allocation for road striping paint and road signs and the rest goes to supplies for the Road Maintenance Office, and janitorial supplies.
For contractual services, $108,000 is for major road repairs contracts. For equipment, it has a budget of $323,000 which includes $313,000 for the vacuum truck - the mobile maintenance truck; and $10,000 for lawn mowers and weed eaters.
For the ‘all others’ budget item, the budget is $101,000 which covers office expenses such as telephone and internet charges, printing materials and gas/diesel and oil for heavy equipment.
According to the budget proposal, the Fund is forecasting to collect about $650,000 in FY 2012 from the gasoline tax. It also says that during first nine months of FY 2011, about $447,164 was collected.