Complaint filed with U.S. Treasury against ASG over CARES Act money
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Local resident, Steven Jay Pincus Hueter has filed an official complaint with the US Treasury’s Office of Inspector General, alleging “flagrant misuse and misappropriation” by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and ASG of the more than $35 million allocated to American Samoa under provisions of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The complaint — filed early this week through the federal agency’s online portal to report fraud or misconduct related to government contracts or grants — centers on the money given to the Fono to use for office space and the $10,000 given to each of the four villages participating in the enforcement of local COVID-19 restrictions.
For the money given to the Fono, the Senate President and House Speaker will each receive $20,000 while $10,000 each goes to senators (17 of them) and faipule (20 of them including the non-voting delegate from Swains Island).
Hueter, co-founder of the non-profit group Interplanetary Development — also known as CivilRightsMatter — said he was recently contacted by the federal agency confirming that it has received his complaint.
Samoa News wasn’t able to obtain information at press time as to how long it will take the OIG to look into the allegations and if there are any other similar complaints submitted from American Samoa.
Hueter and another local resident, Bryan Jackson, have separate lawsuits pending in the High Court, also against the governor and ASG alleging civil and Constitutional rights violations as a result of the governor’s four COVID-19 emergency declarations. Both complaints have hearings tomorrow in the High Court.
Responding to follow-up inquiries, Hueter told Samoa News on Tuesday night that filing the complaint was to bring “some attention to the legality of the expenditures in light of the fact that there is no proper (legal) emergency.”
Additionally, it’s “to let people know that there needs to be legal cause for any serious action taken in unusual circumstances.”
Asked what he hopes to see come out of the complaint, he said, a “neutral review of the spending of federal funds here within the borders of Coronavirus Free American Samoa.”
Furthermore, some transparent public-scrutiny of the processes involved; some accountability of the relationship between the movements of the monies and the legal intentions of the policies; and revealing the process-problems with the intention of improving future-actions — tomorrow.
Asked if he doesn’t think the $10,000 to each of the four villages for COVID-19 restriction enforcement is a valid use, Hueter responded, “No, under the present undisputed fact that we all live in Coronavirus Free American Samoa.”
“Giving $10,000 to each of four villages for COVID- 19 restriction enforcement, when there is no Coronavirus within the borders of American Samoa is simply without merit,” he alleges.
He further alleges that current COVID-19 restrictions within the territory, where there’s no confirmed case, is “unwarranted abuse of power and abuse of discretion” by the governor and ASG.
In the complaint, Hueter also alleges that the governor, ASG and “possibly” the Health Department “are misspending” CARES Act money “on non-COVID-19 PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY uses.”
“There is no Coronavirus or COVID-19 within the borders of Coronavirus Free American Samoa,” he said, and submitted as sources of his complaint information, stories published online by both Samoa News and KHJ News.
By yesterday afternoon, Hueter said he has filed a similar complaint with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation via phone and the FBI’s online portal.
Samoa News notes that people gathered at the Malaeoletalu on Monday morning this week to be a part of a ‘Peaceful Protest’ against leaders of the American Samoa Government (ASG) and the Fono.
According to one protestor, who spoke to Samoa News, the purpose of their protest was to let the American Samoa leaders know that it’s time to put an end to the ongoing corruption including alleged misuse of funds. She stated that the government needs to spend our money wisely. In particular the protestors pointed to COVID-19 funds as part of Public Health aid given to the Fono members to lease office space from Sadie’s by the Sea.
Another 'Peaceful Protest" is planned for this coming Friday, tomorrow, July 10.