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Compliance Review Committee responsibilities to now include review of gov’t leases

Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga
New members also appointed to Tax Exemption board

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga has expanded responsibilities of the Compliance Review Committee to include reviewing government leases and added new members, according to the governor’s Feb. 12th memorandum.

In a separate memo dated Feb. 17th, the governor appointed new members to the ASG Tax Exemption board, whose membership is not subject to Fono confirmation, but lawmakers — in the past years — have raised questions about tax exemption decisions.


“In addition to reviewing employment actions and contact from Jan. 1, 2019 until a date to be determined,” the governor, directed the committee to “review all actions on leases that the government has entered into or amended over the same time period.”

He also added three more members, who are cabinet directors, to the board, which is chaired by the governor’s chief of staff, Tuimavave Tauapa’i Laupola.

Lemanu also said the committee membership is based on the current positions that they hold. And if a member is unable to attend, they must designate a representative to act on their behalf.

According to the governor, all directors of departments and offices, as well as heads of agencies, are required to collaborate with this committee to “maintain transparency and integrity of government.”

Last month the governor, through a memorandum, established the committee to review all expenses related to COVID-19 as well as all government contracts and employment actions since Jan. 1, 2019.

He also says that this new committee replaces the “COVID-19 Compliance Review Committee” established last May by the previous administration.

Besides Tuimavave, other committee members are:

•     Commerce director Petti Tagipo Matila

•     Port Administration director Christopher King

•     Administrative Services director Afalava E. Afalava

•     Attorney General Fainu’ulelei Falefatu Alailima-Utu

•     Public Works director Faleosina Voigt

•     ASG Treasurer Malemo Tausaga

•     Office of Budget and Planning director Catherine Saelua

•     Chief Procurement Office Ti’alemasunu Dr. Mikaele Etuale

•     Office of Disaster Assistance and Petroleum Management director Lisa Tuato’o

•     Human Resources acting director Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo

•     Acting Territorial Auditor Tofa Sualauvi Su’a

•     Jerome Ierome of the Governor’s Office Special Programs


The new board members of the ASG Tax Exemption board, appointed by the governor, are Commerce director Petti Tagipo Matila, Office of Budget and Planning director, Catherine D. Saelua, Governor’s legal counsel Jason Mitchell and Malaeoletalu Melesio Gurr, executive assistant to the governor’s chief of staff.

Pursuant to local law, the ASG Treasurer, Malemo L. Tausaga is a member of the board by virtue of his office, according to the governor, who requested all cabinet members to provide support and cooperation to the board.

Local law states that the board has 5 members, including the ASG Treasurer, and 4 residents of American Samoa who shall be appointed by the Governor and serve at his pleasure.

The law spells out in detail the board’s responsibility and it also states that it’s the policy of the government to promote economic development and capital investment in American Samoa by tax incentives.

Several lawmakers and some businesses over the years have questioned the fairness of granting the tax exemptions to some businesses but not others, and have called for changes to current law. This has also been the argument by the private sector, through the Chamber of Commerce in testimony before the Fono over the years — at the time when David Robinson was head of the Chamber.

Three lawmakers who were made aware of the new board, told Samoa News yesterday that they plan to seek the current list of companies getting tax exemptions, while waiting for the new board to settle-in before asking questions.

The cannery, along with the can manufacturing plant in Satala — that supplies cans for the cannery — are among those currently holding tax exemptions, according to two ASG officials, with knowledge of the process.

Provision of the tax exemption law states in part that a tax exemption certificate issued to a processor of fish may be exempt from some or all taxes on the owners or operators of fishing vessels, motherships, reefer transports, and supply vessels which supply the processor with fish, subject to such conditions and limitations as the Governor deems appropriate.

Another provision states that — “In no event shall the original period of tax exemption exceed 10 years, and no extensions of the original period may be granted. The tax exemption may be made to terminate earlier if the cumulative amount of taxes forgiven equals 200% of non-current investment.”