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Senate approves administration bill for $100K

In a vote of 12-2, the Senate approved last Thursday the House version of an administration bill seeking $50,000 each for the Samoa Bowl Committee and the Office of Samoan Affairs. The measure is to be funded with the estimated general fund revenues for fiscal year 2012, which are available as a result of the governor’s line-item veto action of the FY 2012 budget bill.

According to the measure, $50,000 for the Samoa Bowl Committee is to assist with providing transportation and accommodations for the American Samoa National Under 19 Football Team for two off-island tournaments and the other $50,000 is for Samoan Affairs to complete the Samoan traditional ‘Faletele’ at Utulei Beach.

The Under-19 Team returned recently from Australia after winning the Oceania tournament and will be heading to Texas this summer for the international competition.

Sens. Velega Savali Jr. and Fuata Dr. Tagiilima Iatala were the only two who objected to the bill, with Velega telling his colleagues early last week that he has some serious reservations with the funding source.

Velega recalled past testimonies by government officials in the Fono when it comes to a surplus — where officials have said this is only on paper and there is no actual money in the bank — he wondered if this is the same situation with the funding source for this bill.

Senate President Gaoteote Palaie Tofau explained that $253,000 was the total amount in the governor’s line-item veto action and this is the amount targeted as the funding source. However, Velega — a former ASG treasurer — appeared unconvinced.

Fuata later told Samoa News after the bill was passed that he fully supports funding to the Samoa Bowl Committee “for our kids as part of sports development”, but he is not supportive of the money allocated to complete the ‘Faletele’.

He said federal funding for this project was $250,000 and now there is a request for an additional $50,000. He said there is no word at all on whether a change order was issued that prompted the need for more money.

“I wish we could separate the two projects on this bill,” he said.

When the House approved the bill more than a week ago, six lawmakers voted against the bill, due mainly to the $50,000 for the ‘Faletele’ project with some of them saying that a fund raising for the project carried out several months ago raised a lot of money, which is not being used to complete the project.

Secretary of Samoan Affairs Lefiti A. Pese testified in the House two weeks ago that some $16,000 was raised during the radio-thon and that money is being kept in a bank account to be used for the traditional Samoan dedication of the project set for Apr. 16.

Some House members said that this money was not raised to be used for the dedication, but to complete the project. Some items to be completed for the “Faletele” include outside railing, lighting and a cement sidewalk, according to Lefiti’s testimony before the House.