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Admin proposes bill to establish ASTCA as a semi-autonomous agency

American Samoa Attorney General Mitzie Jessop Taase and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the American Samoa Telecommunication Authority

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa Attorney General Mitzie Jessop Taase and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the American Samoa Telecommunication Authority (ASTCA) Fala Sualevai appeared before the House Telecommunication Committee last week to testify on a bill to establish ASTCA as a semi-autonomous agency in the Executive Branch of the American Samoa Government.


When asked about the bill, Jessop Taase told the committee that she was one of the two attorneys who helped draft the bill while she worked at the Fono. The other attorney was William Ledoux who is working for both the Governor’s office and ASTCA.

Tualauta Representative Larry Sanitoa asked the attorney general if she would support a recommendation to take out language in the bill saying that incumbent board members may continue to serve after the expiration of their terms until successors are appointed and confirmed. In response Jessop Taase said that the only reason they put this language in the bill is because there are times that different Boards operate without enough members to make a quorum.

Sanitoa said that the legislature has had serious issues in the past, not only with the Retirement Board but also with the ASPA Board where some board members served 3, 4 and 5 years beyond their terms and it became a political issue. Sanitoa further stated that he truly believes that these board members must be accountable for the decisions they make while serving after their terms have expired. And for these reasons, the Fono is fighting to take out this provision.

Sanitoa said that the governor should know if the term of a board member is about to expire and should submit to the Fono a replacement instead of holding on to those board member[s]. He said he strongly recommends that this language should be removed from the bill and he hopes the governor would support this.

When asked about another part of the bill which states that the “Board hire the executive management officers including the Chief Operation Officer (COO), Chief Financial Office (CFO) and Chief Technical Officer (CTO)”, Sualevai said that she fully supports this language because there would be an opportunity given to the CEO to have her/ his input heard by the Board before they made the final decision.

Sanitoa believes that the CEO should hire these top people to work with her/ him instead of giving the opportunity to the Board.

Another part of the bill that was questioned by Sanitoa was the power given to ASTCA to borrow  money and incur indebtedness for capital improvements and give security interests in authority property ... “provided that total indebtedness shall not exceed 50% of the corporation’s equity unless otherwise approved by the Legislature.”

The representative said that according to the 2019 Audit Report, ASTCA debt is at $47 million. Sanitoa wanted to know how ASTCA could bring down its debts to meet the requirement of 50% as stated in the bill.

Sualevai said that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done for ASTCA and, “to meet these requirements we have to invest and there is no other way to do it but to loan [borrow],” Sualevai said, adding that “We can’t go directly to a bank for a loan so they have to go through financial entities like the retirement fund.”

She also stated that there was a lot of infrastructure that was needed but none of that happens if they don’t have the money.

“Yes, we have to take a lot of risks and a lot of sacrifices but one thing for certain our debts are being paid — we haven’t missed a payment for the retirement fund and we continue to improve our operation. Month after month, year after year we see the trending going up, so those changes are not going to happen over night. It is never like that in the world of communications,” the CEO said.

She also told committee members that they can see on a annual basis the operation is running on the positive side and even 2019 financial reports show that ASTCA is improving their operation and they’re able to pay their bills.

Rep. Vailoata Amituana’i questioned the authority given to ASTCA to create their own rates. Vailoata then asked if this is the right time to create a PUC (Public Utility Commission) to look into this issue.

Jessop Taase agreed with Vailoata’s recommendation, however, she said that one of the down sides of the issue is that creating a PUC means ASG is creating another new entity and “we have to fund that as well.”

The positive side of having a PUC is it can also control the rates that customers pay to all the utilities, Jessop Taase told the committee.

Fofo Representative Andra Samoa said despite the language of the bill, which states that “The Attorney General of American Samoa shall represent ASTCA with respect to all legal matters,” she believes that ASTCA should be represented by a private attorney.

Jessop Taase agreed with Samoa, however, she pointed out that the bill does give ASTCA the discretion to retain a private attorney of its own.



ASTCA will be governed by a Board of Directors of seven members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Legislature for terms of four years.

A director can be removed from the Board by the Governor only for a breach of his or her fiduciary responsibilities or for just cause.

ASTCA Board members shall be compensated at a rate of $6,000 per year and $7,000 per year for the Chairman.


According to the preamble — ASTCA as an agency of the ASG previously operated under the auspices of the Office of Public Works in 1963, and later as the Office of Communication in 1972 until ASTCA was created via Executive Order as an enterprise fund in 1998.

ASTCA services have broadly expanded from telecommunication to executing the ASHPRO Cable infrastructure, rapidly increasing internet connectivity through the BLAST project, the O3b Trunk networks, and most recently the successfully launch of Hawaiki fiber optic cable.

The bill states, “The future of ASTCA is beholden to the people of American Samoa with high expectation to unilaterally progress with our counterparts around the world. As an authority, ASTCA will be equipped to face these challenges and provide excellent services to the territory without undergoing any undue obstacles.”

ASTCA is presently ready to be empowered to carry out its own charger to mutually benefit the community and the government. It will foster financial stability, promote operational efficiency and encourage overall growth as one of the most relied upon services in the territory. This transition would be in the best interest of the future of American Samoa.


The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is responsible for the operation of ASTCA under the direction and control of the Board of Directors. The CEO shall report directly to the Board of Directors. The Board shall establish compensation of the CEO.


The American Samoa Attorney General shall represent ASTCA with respects to all legal matters except that ASTCA, at its own discretion, may retain the services of a private attorney.