Senate OKs nominee to head Planning & Budget
The Senate in a vote of 17-1 approved the governor’s nomination of Catherine Aigamaua-Saelua as Director of Program Planning and Budget Office yesterday following a half-hour confirmation hearing. The hearing was held before the Budget Committee chaired by Senator Laolagi Fonoti Savali Vaea.
Senator Magalei Logovi’i informed members that Aigamaua-Saelua is more than qualified to take up this post given her service in this department for over 20 years.
Fighting back his tears Magalei said Aigamaua-Saelua was his right hand when he was then Treasurer. “I’m proud and happy that she has been chosen by Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga to be director for this Department, she has the wisdom and knowledge to lead this Department" he said.
“She has not once failed to achieve any project or an assignment given to her when we were working together, whether it be Saturday or Sunday when she’s called in to work— she comes in to work and that’s is the type of commitment she has for this department” said Magalei.
The Tualauta Senator urged the nominee to be mindful of her decision-making all the time. Magalei also pointed out that there were times that he and Catherine did not agree on issues, yet she abided with the instructions given to the budget department.
“Her directorship for this Department is long overdue” said Magalei to the nominee. Senator Faumuina Tagisiaali’i, noted that her resume is unquestionable, but urged Aigamaua-Saelua to conduct her post with honesty. He further pointed out that if there are any changes, or supplemental changes to the budget for each department to make sure that these changes are for the better and for the benefit of everyone, not just a few.
Senator Mauga Tasi Aseuga noted that Aigamaua-Saelua’s resume is commendable as well as her service to the people of American Samoa through working for the government for over 30 years.
Senator Sua V Mata’utia noted that a person who holds qualifications for a certain job, despite the knowledge she holds, honesty is the key, and without honesty there is no use to contain all that knowledge. He encouraged Aigamaua-Saelua to conduct her post diligently and honestly.
Senator Alo Fa’auuga jokingly advised the nominee not to follow Senator Magalei’s footsteps, (when he was Treasurer) that whenever the Fono called him for a hearing, he’s always off island. Ituau Senator Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono told Aigamaua-Saelua there are three things that she must be mindful of—to follow the law, the legislature and the judiciary.
He pointed out that in the past the budget for several departments have been in the red, and this is an issue that she should look into and act on, because it’s a longstanding issue that needs to be dealt with. Soliai also commended her for service to the government.
Senator Galea’i Tu’ufuli asked Aigamaua-Saelua if she saw and approved the payouts to people that left the government during the transition period, and if these payouts were budgeted or not. Aigamaua-Saelua responded that there were funds allocated for the payouts, which were close to $600,000.
The Senator then advised Aigamaua-Saelua to carry out her duties diligently and honestly and always remember that there are laws in place to budget government funds.
Committee Chairman Laolagi noted that before the payout is with the treasurer, the nominee must approve it. He pointed out that if there were previous discrepancies and incidents that were done not according to the law, to make sure this is not repeated.
Aigamaua-Saelua also appeared before the House Budget Committee yesterday and it's unclear when the House will bring forth the nominee for the vote. Aigamaua-Saelua has worked as a budget analyst and has held the position of Budget Deputy Director for the past five years and given her many years in the Budget office, she is prepared to assume the role as the head of the agency, according to the Governor's letter to the Fono.
She holds a Masters Degree in Education from San Diego State University, and received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Mount St. Mary’s College.