Husband’s business “irrelevant to TALOFAPass,” Tofoitaufa tells SSIC
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Tofoitaufa Sandra King Young, director of the American Samoa Medicaid State Agency told the Senate Select Investigative Committee (SSIC) during a recent hearing that she has been accused of “criminal conduct including collusion” in relation to the TALOFAPass, and her husband’s business “is completely irrelevant to the TALOFAPass.”
Tofoitaufa was responding to questions about her husband’s building where Data House — the company that won the bid to create the TALOFAPass — is one of the tenants and whether this is a conflict of interest, given her involvement with Data House and the TALOFAPass system, the government’s digital screening tool.
“I have been accused of criminal conduct including collusion and I'm gonna be honest about this, about my husband,” said Tofoitaufa during the SSIC hearing.
She said the comments were made by people that did not win the tender of the TALOFAPass websystem.
“The undertone of the question is not comfortable for me because I can tell you this, the lease to Data House for my husband's warehouse is completely irrelevant to the TALOFAPass.
“This is a company that decided to set up shop in American, which is what the government is trying to do to attract businesses here. They (Data House) went looking for a suitable space all over the Tafuna area and the best place they found was my husband's warehouse, which is one of the newest construction projects on island.
“And everybody knows that; so my husband had two tenants he was interviewing for the space, the National Pacific Insurance was one and Data House. And I want to tell you honestly I advised him not to at lease to Data House because of the optics but he made a business decision.
“I was not involved in that decision — of who he rents his warehouse out to — but there was nothing criminal about my husband leasing to Data House,” said Tofoitaufa.
Regarding the contract, the Director said Data House offered $7 million but she was not privy to the bidding information given that it was conflict of interest for her and the Director of Health Tuileama Motusa Nua, as they made the initial contact.
“I don’t know the final cost until what was reported in the media.” She said the last she read was that it cost $6.35 million.
According to Tofoitaufa there are two authorizers on the system, the Department of Health and the Immigration Dept.
“Medicaid does not access the system. My job was to assist the respective departments on what they need to amend on the system and I would communicate it up the line and down the line.
“And just a few month ago, the Governor authorized me, [Department of Homeland Security] Director Samana Veavea Emo, Motusa and [the] Attorney General to override the system in emergency cases, but I never did that.” Tofoitaufa explained.
Chair of the Senate Select Investigative Committee Togiola T. A. Tulafono inquired about the purpose of the TALOFAPass.
Tofoitaufa explained the pass was for screening purposes.
“When our borders closed, there were people that wanted to be repatriated while there were also locals that did not want to open the borders for safety health reasons.
“The main important screening was done by the Department of Health; they needed the vaccination card and medical screening, which was vital and difficult at the same time.
“The DoH was in charge of medical health screening, as the people were under government control quarantine, the liability was for the government in the case a medical emergency occurred, the government was on standby, as they knew this information from the screening process, such as who was diabetic, dialysis people and those with heart conditions.
“The DOH personnel needed that — while we kept you for 14 days that at any time we understood your information, that’s why we needed your hospital number.
“Also the issue of contact tracing of passengers — in any case of an emergency we can immediately trace the passengers,” said Tofoitaufa.
Regarding the immigration process on the TALOFAPass, the Medicaid Director said they monitored the system ensuring that they were allowing residents at the beginning, but as the State of Emergency changed so did the requirements.
Senator Utu Sila Poasa pointed out the COVID-19 numbers are winding down — so if and when the TALOFAPass closes down, what will happen to the data collected by Data House?
Tofoitaufa said there is protection of information in the system as it is owned by the American Samoa Government.
“Like I said before the TALOFAPass is under the technology office of the Governor’s office that is not well known, but that is the office that is in charge of the oversight and management of the system for the whole government, and multiple agencies have a function on the system,” said Tofoitaufa.
In earlier comments, Tofoitaufa had revealed that by July 2021, which was the first six months of quarantine process in Hawaii, costs to the government were already close to $20 million.
SSIC Chairman questioned Tofoitaufa on the Medicaid Office’s relationship with Renal Dialysis, a US company they have multiple dialysis sites not only in Hawaii but also in other states.
She confirmed that Renal Dialysis introduced her to the president of Data House, Ms Hong Phan, a Vietnamese.
“We had several meetings to see if they understood our problem and to see whether they could help us,” said Tofoitaufa.