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ASPA goes on KVZK-TV urging voters to vote “no” on referendum

The American Samoa Power Authority board of directors used state run KVZK-TV, operated and managed by the ASG Office of Public Information, to promote its opposition regarding the veto override referendum, which was defeated in Tuesday’s general election.

The referendum sought to amend the Revised Constitution of American Samoa, giving the Fono the power to override the governor’s veto, instead of the U.S. Secretary of Interior.

On the eve of this year’s election, ASPA board members were on KVZK talking about the referendum and its impact on ASPA.  Board chairman Rev. Asaua Fuimaono said if the referendum is approved by voters, such a change to the constitution will greatly impact ASPA financially, especially the fact that it will give the Fono full authority over ASPA’s annual budget.

Fuimaono said the Fono continues to seek this authority, in order to override the governor’s veto, but the community does not understand that the Fono owes ASPA a lot of money. He said the community continues to blame ASPA but they don’t have a full understanding of the many outstanding debts to be paid.

Fuimaono explained that ASG owes $9.6 million, which does not include the $1.38 million owed by LBJ Medical Center and more than $400,000 by the American Samoa Community College.

He said that ASG also owes ASPA the subsidies, required by law, going back to 2001 or 2002. He said the total amount for the unpaid subsidies comes to $10.6 million and the overall amount of money owed to ASPA comes to $27.35 million.

He then urged voters to vote “no” on the referendum ballot. Unofficial results of the referendum ballot from the Election Office show that of the 13,031 ballots counted, 7,177 voted “no” to reject while 5,854 vote “yes” - which means the referendum has been rejected. (The Samoan version of this story was first published in yesterday’s Samoa News edition, in the Le Lali section)

ASPA had campaigned to defeat the referendum with a message on its website to vote “no” and a three page memo from ASPA board and management addressed to the “ASPA family & Community”.

Lawmakers and ASPA have been at odds with each other for two years now, with ASPA claiming that it’s the ASPA board who has the final approval over the authority’s budget.  (See Thursday’s edition of Samoa News for full details of the ASPA memo to defeat the referendum)

In the current fiscal year 2013 budget, the Fono approved only $78.82 million for ASPA, whose original proposal was $115.45 million. The budget covers only the first four-months of FY 2013 and means ASPA must return next January to work with the Fono for a budget to cover the rest of the fiscal year. 

However, ASPA management still maintains that its board has the final say for the annual budget, not the Fono.