Motusa answers questions about money owed to Pima Prevention

fili@samoanews.com

Department of Health is working to identify the validity of about $113,000 of the more than $200,000 of an outstanding debt that the Health Department is alleged to owe to Nevada-based Pima Prevention Partnership (PPP), which provided service to DOH during the previous administration, says Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua, during his Senate confirmation hearing yesterday.

The Senate in a unanimous 16-0 vote later endorsed Motusa, who was confirmed last week by the House.

Samoa News reported Monday that DOH has an outstanding balance of $247,124 owed to PIMA for a variety of services provided in 2012- 2013. The company also threatened to have the matter investigated by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. (See Samoa News edition Feb. 13 for details.)

During his Senate confirmation hearing yesterday, Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean noted the newspaper report about PIMA, which owes money by DOH. Tuaolo sought an explanation as well as the work that PIMA was involved in doing.

Motusa said the “short answer” is there were individuals from PIMA, which is a partnership program, who wrote grants for the government, including DOH, but PIMA’s work was during the previous administration.

He says DOH, during his tenure as director, has questioned some of the invoices or documents. He claims that people working at the time on the program didn’t abide with conditions of the contracts — but he didn’t elaborate further.

Motusa said DOH and the Attorney General’s Office have conducted a thorough review of PIMA bills to find which amounts are to be paid.

Asked by Tuaolo as to the funding source to pay these outstanding debts, Motusa didn’t provide a direct reply, but he did explain that PIMA’s total claim was $247,000 and DOH conducted negotiations before the matter was sent to the Attorney General’s Office, which recommended that only $134,000 is owed and is to be paid.

And the difference — of $113,000 — “is not accounted for”, which means it’s “unallowable” or “unauthorized” in accordance with the contract with PIMA, said Motusa, who noted that DOH is still reviewing this issue in an effort to clear the debt, and then get the governor’s opinion of the DOH’s findings.

Motusa stressed that this debt happened in the previous administration, before he came to American Samoa and served as a director.

Samoa News reported Monday that the Attorney General had issued a memo to Motusa back in 2014, acknowledging he had reviewed various contracts between DOH and PPP. The AG pointed out that he also considered an analysis prepared by his staff and based on this information “it is my strong recommendation” that DOH should authorize PIMA to negotiate settlement of the outstanding invoices.

Pressed by Sen. Paepae Iosefa Faiai, as to what PIMA was supposed to do for DOH, to which Motusa explained that PIMA first came to ASG working at the Governor’s Office and upon completion of that work, PIMA then moved on to the Department of Human and Social Services; and when the DHSS work was completed, the PIMA group then went to DOH, where they wrote the grant for the federal “Home Visit Program”, resulting in $1 million in grant funding.

Motusa said PIMA also worked on preparing the non-communicable disease plan for American Samoa. However, he said the previous leadership at DOH left without paying what is owed to PIMA, which is working with DOH to address the outstanding debt.

And if confirmed by the Fono, Motusa said this matter is a “priority” for him.

Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saolua T. Nua followed up with more questions about the PIMA issue, to which Motusa explained that PIMA provided receipts and other documents for its claim of $247,000. And the Attorney General and his office reviewed the documents and thereafter the AG provided a recommendation that the only amount for ASG to pay is $134,000 while the AG didn’t provide a recommendation on the balance of $113,000.

He says DOH is working to find out exactly the justification of the $113,000, which with supporting evidence is needed to be presented to the governor for his opinion on this debt.

Nuanuaolefeagaiga, who is also Motusa’s older brother, wanted examples of what is considered by Motusa as “not accounted for” when it comes to the $113,000.

Motusa revealed that a DOH review discovered that among the expenses submitted for DOH to pay are for hotel rooms, restaurants, rental cars and other expenditures.

(Samoa News notes that Motusa did not elaborate, i.e. who specifically incurred the expenditures, the DOH staff who worked on the programs with PIMA, or the PIMA staff, who were on island to work on the programs. Senators did not ask for clarification.)

He says it’s difficult to discuss this issue at this point in the event the matter ends up in court. But Nuanuaolefeagaiga pressed on asking more questions — asking if DOH staff that worked on these programs with PIMA were still employed with DOH.

Motusa said yes, adding that these individuals were at leadership posts in the previous administration when the PIMA work was conducted for DOH. He says these individuals are now working at other DOH divisions and he is working with them to get justification for the $113,000.

Asked how DOH is going to pay this debt, Motusa said there is no money budgeted in DOH’s fiscal year 2017 budget to pay PIMA and would consult with the federal grantor of the Home Visit Program to allow a certain percentage of the grant funding to help pay down the debt.

If that is unsuccessful, DOH will look at any unused funds from the first quarter of FY 2017 and then request the governor for money to pay this debt, said Motusa, who noted that ASG attorneys are also working with PIMA on the possibility of reducing the amount owed by DOH.

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