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Senate committee recommends further investigation of payouts to former ASG heads

The Senate Government Operations Committee is recommending a “further investigation” into payouts to political appointees and elected officials from the previous administration, possibly to recoup any taxpayer funds expended for the payments.


This was cited in a Sept. 24 letter from committee chairman Sen. Galea’i M. Tu’ufuli to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga following hearings on the close to $1 million in monetary payouts made by the previous administration to elected officials — including the former governor and lieutenant governor — as well as outgoing directors and employees.


Based on reports received from the Executive Branch, Galeai says, the committee found that a total of $897,164.87 has been paid out by ASG. He also said that in many instances, it appears these payouts were” inappropriate and contrary to law”.


“In summary, the committee refers this issue to the Executive Branch for further investigation for compliance with the law, and importantly, recoupment of any funds expended, which were paid but not in compliance with the law,” said Galeai.


In reaching its findings and conclusions, Galeai said the committee considered the following provisions of the law:


•            ASCA 4.0110 — compensation and perquisites — allowances for governor and lieutenant governor, which does not provide for accrual of annual or sick leave;


•            ASCA 7.1202 — Sick leave, which sets limits on the payout of sick leave.


•            ASCA 7.1203 — Annual leave, which sets limits on the accrual of annual leave.


•            ASCA 7.1004(1) — Overtime for gubernatorial appointees, which prohibits overtime compensation for appointees.


On behalf of the committee, Galeai urged the Lolo administration to carry out a “thorough analysis and investigation into each payout and action to recover any amounts, which were not in conformance with the law.”


“We appreciate your time devoted to this major issue and are hopeful the investigation will yield positives results,” said Galeai and included with the letter an updated executive report on payouts.


Among the payouts for previous directors, two were made to men who are now senators. Sen. Magalei Logovi’i had a final check of $23,838.44 and Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono received a final check of $50,552, according to the payout report. Both senators are currently members of the Senate's Government Operations Committee.


Magalei, the former ASG Treasurer for the previous administration told a committee hearing in March that no laws were violated when payouts were made to previous cabinet members or the governor and lieutenant governor. 


According to the payout report, former Gov. Togiola Tulafono’s final check was $39,406 and the final check for former Lt. Gov. Faoa Aitofele Sunia was $34,812.


Both elected officials received annual leave and sick leave.


Galeai told senators earlier this month that he believes — in accordance with the law — the governor and lieutenant governor are not entitled to sick and/or annual leave and this is the first time he is aware of any U.S. jurisdiction, whose governor received leave payments.


ASG officials of the previous administration testified last year during budget hearings —when the payouts first surfaced — that directors along with the governor and lieutenant governor are entitled to sick and annual leave.