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Fono differs on legislation to fund TCF wall and eastside seawall

Rendering of proposed new Fono Building
Sen Magalei tries to explain, Sen Faamausili tells him he’s a senator, not the treasurer

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Senate has called for a Conference Committee of the Fono to convene Fridy morning to iron out differences and reach a resolution on the final language of an Administration bill appropriating funds for the construction of a “new cement perimeter wall” around the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) and a seawall from Aua village going east along the coastline of Tutuila.

The call was made Thursday after senators rejected amendments made by the House to the Senate version of the bill.

The original version of the bill states that funding for the two projects comes from the “surpluses” of fiscal years 2017 and 2018, and ASG’s dividends received in 2017 from the American Samoa Hawaii Cable (ASH-Cable) LLC, which is 33% owned by ASG.

Before final approval early this week, the Senate amended its version of the bill by deleting FY 2017 as a funding source. The House re-inserted the FY 2017 surplus to the Senate version and approved it. 

The Senate was informed yesterday of the House amendment, prompting discussions amongst senators — some of whom wondered why the FY 2017 surplus was taken out in the first place.

Sen. Magalei Logovi’i, who initiated the amendment in the Senate, explained that ASG submitted a copy of its FY 2017 and FY 2018 audit reports, which confirmed the $786,300 surplus for FY 2017, but that surplus appears in the FY 2018 audit report as the starting balance of FY 2018.

So there is no surplus in FY 2017, as it rolled over and was reflected in FY 2018, explained the Tualauta senator.

Two other senators raised questions, including Sen. Fa’amausili Mau Mau Jr., who disagreed, saying he believes the FY 2017 figure should remain in the original language of the bill as another funding source. He added that Magalei is not the ASG Treasurer, but a senator.

Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean reminded his colleagues that the issue can be ironed out and discussed further during a conference committee, which is to include all members of both the Senate and House. He recalled ASG Treasurer Ueligitone Tonumaipe’a’s testimony before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee last week, that the FY 2017 surplus still needs Fono appropriation or it will remain on the books.

Magalei, a former ASG Treasurer, said he raised the issue because he knows what he’s talking about. However, he said the final decision rests with the Senate, even if “we go incorrect” like that.

The other amendment made by the Senate, notes the “ASH” Cable dividend in the Samoan version of the bill, instead of “Hawaiki” cable.

The House version of the bill was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday with the original language. However, the Senate amended the bill by taking out the FY 2017 surplus and then approved it yesterday in second reading. Third reading was Friday.

Through a Conference Committee of the Whole — meaning all lawmakers from both chambers — the Fono agreed with the House amendment to the Senate version of the bill,  that the funding source for the two projects will be the “surpluses” of fiscal years 2017 and 2018, and ASG’s dividends received in 2017 from the American Samoa Hawaii Cable (ASH-Cable) LLC that is 33% owned by ASG.

Details in Tuesday's Samoa News edition.

Of note: The TCF wall is currently being constructed — with crews from Nana’s and Paramount on site doing the work — while the bill — this bill — to fund the work, was still being debated in the Fono.