Western Dist $1M ledger entries remain questionable
Former Western District Governor and current Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Satele Galu Teutusi Satele, is disputing items listed in the Western District account ledger that was leaked to Samoa News, over a week ago.
The three districts, Eastern, Western and Manu’a, each received in 2009, $1million to carry out capital improvement projects from the $20 Million loan the government received from the ASG Employees Retirement Fund.
The Western District ledger entries list expenses and their amounts paid for with their $1 million share, which was to finance local village capital improvement projects, as decided by the villages themselves — in this case, Western district villages.
As reported last week, the ledger indicates that two checks were issued to Satele Galu Satele, when he held the position of Western District Governor. The first one was issued on May 21, 2010 (Check# 1496) for $30,000, with a second check of $20,000 (Check# 1902) issued on May 31, 2012.
Satele told Samoa News that these checks were issued to him from the government for their trip to Samoa for Samoa's 50-year Independence celebration, as Vailoatai was one of the villages that represented American Samoa.
“I was not aware that the check received was from the Western District funding, all this time I thought the money was from the general fund, until today (last week Tuesday) when it’s in the paper," he said.
He said the invitation from the Samoa government was to the American Samoa Government not to Vailoatai, yet Togiola reached out to the Western District for funding.
"(Former) Governor Togiola (Tulafono) should have never used the Western District’s money, because the money was for the Western District, not for events such as these … ,” Satele told Samoa News.
Former Gov. Togiola Tulafono responded to Samoa News queries regarding Satele’s claims, saying, “I am happy to take the blame, but the truth remains. I hope it helps him by blaming me. Have at it.”
According to the ledger report, the first checks were issued in the amount of $3,040 (Check#1263/1264) to Galu Satele and Joyita Satele, with another check issued to Galu Satele in the amount of $5,000 (Check#1904) at a later date and Satele has disputed all three entries.
He told Samoa News that the information indicated in the ledger is inaccurate or false, and said no more.
In last week’s story about the Western District ledger entries, Samoa News reported that the district governors controlled their district’s $1 million loan proceeds. However, Samoa News was incorrect.
In March 2009, Samoa News reported that then Governor Togiola had appointed former House member Tagaloa Toloa Letuli to coordinate the allocation of the $3 million for the three districts of American Samoa.
The $3 million was requested by the administration and approved by the Fono in December. During the House review of the measure, there was no clear indication as to who would administer this money, and it was suspected at the time it would be the Office of Samoan Affairs.
However, during a cabinet meeting, in March 2009,Togiola announced the appointment of Tagaloa to coordinate allocation of this money, which was the subject of many House complaints as faipule argued there was not enough of the $20 million retirement loan left to cover this expense. Despite complaints, a law was passed that the three districts would receive $1 million each for their capital improvement projects.
Togiola said at the time, that in 2008 there were more than a few projects in the far reaches of the district that would revitalize villages with a fraction of the funds that are required under major capital improvement projects.
He told directors during the cabinet meeting that departments and villages are to give their requests for the use of this money to Tagaloa.
Tagaloa recently spoke to Samoa News explaining some of the checks identified in the ledger report.
He said the check of $20,000 (Check# 1902) issued on May 31, 2012 to Satele was to pay for the expenses to attend Samoa’s 50-year Independence celebration, where SOFIA (Society of Fa’afafine in American Samoa) represented Vailoatai, led by Satele.
“The check issued to Satele on May 21, 2010 (Check# 1496) for $30,000 was to pay for their airfares and per diem to take the signed petition to Washington DC during the minimum wage issue,” said Letuli.
However, Samoa News archives show that it was in August 2009 when government officials presented the petition to a senior official of the Obama Administration. The minimum wage petition was signed by over 12,000 residents of American Samoa in hope to reestablish a fairer scheme of determining minimum wage increases for the people of American Samoa.
The trip comprised Togiola and his wife Mary Ann, accompanied by Senate President Gaoteote Palaie Tofau; House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale; Secretary of Samoan Affairs Tufele Fa'ato'ia Li'amatua; Eastern District Governor Gaoteote Tapatonu; Western District Governor Satele Galu Teutusi; Manu'atele District Governor Misaalefua J. Hudson; Chamber of Commerce President David Robinson, business community representative Carlos Sanchez (owner of a fishing company) representing fisheries in American Samoa; and other representatives of fishing companies operating in American Samoa.
Tagaloa further explained that the checks issued to Lualemana Faoa (then a senator and currently the Western District Governor) and Speaker Savali Talavou Ale — a total of $50,000 each — was to pay for the expenses of the trip to Samoa’s 50-year Independence Celebration.
“These leaders approached me about releasing the funds for the trip to Samoa which I denied however they went to the governor (Togiola) on several occasions, and after many attempts, the governor finally granted their request,” said Tagaloa in an interview with Samoa News.
Asked about the checks issued to individuals, as stated in the ledger report, to Joyita Satele and Galu Satele, he said he was not aware of those checks.
Tagaloa explained the checks issued to businesses such as McConnell Dowell in the amount of $129,730, Ace Hardware received $23,940.63, Tools Inc $44,907.15 CBT True Value $12,483 and trucking services, construction companies and auto repair companies also included in the report were to pay for projects that were approved under the capital improvements category. He did not offer details of the projects.
Samoa News understands that on January 2, 2013 a check for $50,000 was issued in the name of Magalei Logovi’i, from the Western District funding, to complete the road to his house in Pava’ia’i. Efforts to obtain comments from Magalei were not successful as of press time.