COVID-19 Task Force report details spending — who and where
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The COVID-19 Task Force Operations Report 2021, released Monday by the Governor’s Office provides a summary breakdown on how much was paid in operations costs to local and off-island vendors — starting with the repatriation flights and then to limited commercial flights.
And the report confirmed that the contract awarded last year to Honolulu-based DataHouse Consulting Inc., for the government’s TALOFAPASS web-system — which screens incoming travelers and will be used for outbound travelers — came in at $6.3 million.
The report summarizes COVID-19 operations costs totaling just over $40.86 million with $27.7 million — or 70% — paid to local vendors and $13.2 million (or 30%) spent on off-island costs. For breakdown by category, $12 million went to quarantine facilities — with $9.35 million to local vendors and more than $3.46 million to off-island vendors.
Furthermore, just over $3.6 million went to “Food/Meals” — with $2 million paid to local vendors and $1.6 million for off island expenses. The money was utilized to provide thousands of travelers in quarantine with 3 meals a day in both Hawaii and American Samoa. (See Samoa News edition Jan. 26th for details.)
The report shows more than $4.57 million was spent on transportation costs, with nearly $3.95 million paid to off-island vendors and $625,794 on local expenses. These funds were utilized throughout the year on transportation costs supporting all repatriation and commercial flights.
These costs, the report says, included rental cars and shuttle services to transport wheelchair passengers from hotel to airport in Hawaii and passenger/luggage transport for charters in American Samoa.
“The coordination of air and ground transportation to transport 200-plus passengers was no easy feat as it required the collaboration of city and state agencies in Hawaii and review of flight charter contracts never before done by the ASG,” it says.
Vendors include Toilolo, Saumalu, Tofaga Malu, Skyview, Lupelele, Endtime Hope, Fetu Fou, Island Star Express, Pentagon, and Fuamatu.
About $588,000 was spend on decontamination services provided by various vendors to ensure rooms were professionally sanitized at all quarantine sites and the decontamination of passenger luggage and vehicles for each flight for both Hawaii and American Samoa quarantine operations.
According to the report, $512,030 was paid for local expenses and $75,608 for off island vendors.
The report identified vendors Anvee, Island Safety and Sanitation and Snow Services in American Samoa and BIO-X Hawaii LLC for decontamination services in Hawaii.
MEDICAL SERVICE COSTS
The task force spent $728,400 in medical service costs — with $362,590 spent on off-island expenses and $365,810 on local expenses — and the funds was used to provide medical disaster relief and dialysis services to passengers in both Hawaii and American Samoa beginning with repatriation charter #3 when stranded dialysis patients were able to return home.
The report explained that the American Samoa Medicaid State Agency received approval for its Disaster Relief State Plan Amendment (SPA) under the Public Health Emergency to support the repatriation efforts.
“This provided American Samoa Medicaid coverage for pre-travel quarantine in Hawaii for medical referral patients and included never before done in-hotel dialysis services by US Renal Care to allow dialysis patients to return home,” the report explained.
It also says that this dialysis coverage service was further extended to American Samoa through Hope Dialysis, outside of LBJ Medical Center, to ensure dialysis passengers could receive dialysis during quarantine in the territory.
Vendors include Hope Dialysis in American Samoa and US Renal Care dialysis in Hawaii.
The ASG “TALOFAPASS” web-system cost is one of only two expenditures in which local vendors were not involved. The report said $2.5 million was paid to DataHouse, which developed the IT solution to allow for the three-test protocols in Hawaii for all incoming travelers.
The report reveled that the full contract for TALOFAPASS is $6.3 million and the next payment of $1.25 million is due this month — January.
The report explains that the system is currently being used by ASG to track registrations and COVID-19 test results and has since detected and prevented the entry of over 100-plus positive and close contacts in Hawaii.
Additionally, between 300 to 400 residents have continued to register onto the TALOFAPASS with each commercial flight.
Furthermore, Data House continues to work with ASG on improvements and modifications to allow for regional and international — Samoa, Fiji — travelers to access and register for travel to American Samoa.
“The TALOFAPASS is the government’s technology tool to enable contactless safe travel processing into the future,” the report said. “The system will be used not only to screen all incoming travelers from all destinations but it will also be used to document outbound travelers.”
Samoa News should point out that according to a KHJ radio report, in January 2022, an appeal to the decision by the Chief Procurement Office to award the contract to DataHouse Consulting Inc was filed with the Administrative Law Judge on Nov. 18, 2021 by local company, Klaod Solutions inc.
In particular, the appeal cites the lack of ‘good faith’ on the negotiation and administration of the contract — which prohibits collusion and conflicts of interest between government employees and bidders. As of press time, it is unknown when the Administrative Law Judge will rule on the appeal.
The second expenditure category in which there were no local vendors involved is identified as “legal” costs and is related to COVID-19 issues. The report explained that ASG retained two law firms in Washington D.C, and California to defend federal lawsuits against ASG, government leaders and officials and the task force.
“These suits have so far cost the government approximately $1.12 million and legal costs will continue to rise,” according to the report, and explained that the plaintiff in the California federal lawsuit has dismissed her suit involving American Samoa entry requirements for alleged service dogs.
As previously reported by Samoa News, the plaintiff — a local resident — claimed that task force rules prevented her from bringing home her service dogs, an allegation denied by the defendants.
Plaintiff was in California when air service between Honolulu and Pago Pago was closed in March 2020 due to local COVID-19 restrictions and the lawsuit was filed last April. She returned to the territory on board one of the repatriation flights in the summer of last year and filed dismissal, which was granted by the court in early October last year.
The defendants were represented in this lawsuit by Los Angeles-based law firm of Lurie & Kramer.
For the federal court in Washington D.C., the report says there are two civil suits against ASG, and various current and former government officials, Fono members and the Task Force, pending there.
The lawsuits involve allegations against COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings and religious freedom, and a restriction exception for the StarKist cannery, payment of disbursements in 2020, and vaccine requirements.
Plaintiff in both cases is a local resident and American Samoa defendants are represented by Washington-based law firm Womble Bond Dickinson LLP.
Samoa News will report in future editions on other categories of expenses in the report, which involved only local vendors.