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Senate entertains idea of re-establishing the SSIC

A call to revisit a Senate resolution to establish the Senate Investigative Committee that had been introduced in the Senate in 2009, was passed by the Senate last week after a long discussion.

The call was announced by Senate President Gaoteote Palaie Tofau after the Senate session last week, when he asked senators to stay behind so that they could discuss this issue.

During his opening comments, Gaoteote stated there were so many hard issues rising from the American Samoa Government, and the Senate needs to look into these issues, such as the continuing financial problems faced by the public with the American Samoa Power Authority and LBJ hospital; donation issues surrounding the September 29 tsunami, and the $20 million loan, along with many other issues regarding the spending of government and local funds.

Gaoteote told his colleagues that the $20 million loan issue is not new, whereby he always told the governor to bring to the Fono any changes to this loan, so that the Fono has a clear picture of how to spend the money.

He also mentioned the $3 million for the Fono from the loan, noting that this amount was used to finish the Fono’s new IT building when the request went to the governor for more funds from ARRA money to complete the project.

As of last Friday, Goateote assured his colleagues that the Fono has $2.5 million left from this loan.

“I think that is the right time for us to establish this committee and start to investigate, so that we can get a clear understanding of what’s going on in government operations,” said Gaoteote.

“We’re not doing this so that we can charge someone or to find who is doing wrong and pointing finger to others, it the duty of the committee to investigate and bring accurate information for the Fono’s understanding,” said Gaoteote.

The call was seconded by Sen. Velega Savali and Lualemaga Faoa.

Velega said that as the Fono has tried to get accurate figures from the government on the exact amount of surplus for the government for FY 2011, he believes that all information presented to the Fono by ASG’s officials are only words, but no figures.

He supported Gaoteote’s opinion about revisiting the Senate resolution and it is his understanding that this is the right time to do so.

This was also supported by Sen. Lualemaga. He said while the Fono always talks about the government and its overrun budget each year, the call to bring up the SSIC now is the right time.

Sen. Paogofie Fiaigoa also voiced his support, saying there is no problem at all if the Senate wants to bring back the SSIC so that they can look into issues that the Fono has no knowledge of, but his main concern now is to do something to assist all the employees of the LBJ hospital who have received letters from the hospital board that they are being laid off from their jobs.

After the discussion, the majority voted yes to bring the resolution into chamber so that the Senate could vote on it.

It was in 2009, a resolution was introduced in the Senate to establish an SSIC. The resolution was sponsored by seven senators: Velega Savali Jr. Mauga Tasi Asuega, Malepeai Setu, Fuata I’atala, Letalu Maui and the two other senators who have chaired this committee before, Alo Stevenson and Lualemaga Faoa,

The committee is to operate like the previous SSIC which had the power to issue subpoenas, and the authority to collect information from the government’s records, and any other information they needed during their investigation.

The Senate is prepared to vote on the resolution during this week’s session.