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It’s the blame game all over again for delayed ASG scholarship checks

C M Y K Page 6 samoa news, Wednesday, October 18, 2017 Members of the ASG scholarship board appeared before the House Education & Scholarship Committee yesterday morning to discuss the issue of delayed checks for students attending school off island. [photo: AF]

The House Education & Scholarship Committee held a hearing yesterday morning with members of the ASG Scholarship Board, to discuss complaints from parents of students — government scholarship recipients — who claim that there are delays in the issuance of checks to pay for their tuition.

The second regular session of the Fono ended last Friday, but House committee members decided to carry on with the hearing yesterday morning. Faipule who were present included Reps. Vui Florence Saulo, Samuel Ioka Ale Meleisea, Kitara Vaiau and Faimealelei Anthony Fu’e Allen.

Scholarship board members who showed up were chairman, Sen. Faiivae Iuli Godinet; vice chairwoman Donna Gurr; Dr. Rosevonne Makaiwi Pato who is also the ASCC president, and a member of the Scholarship office.

One of the main issues that was raised during the hearing is why students who are attending school off-island under the government scholarship, are not able to receive their checks on time.

Faimealelei informed board members that there have been a lot of parents who approached him about the issue, and some of them have had to deal with this problem for almost 4 years now, ever since their child started college.

He said that although the problem is not new; the current board needs to step up and do something to avoid this from continuing to happen.

Faimealelei wanted to know where exactly the problem lies: whether it is the scholarship office or it is it the government, so the House committee can step up and do something to help the affected students, because they need to be in school.

“The Fono understands the financial situation of our government,” he said. “But we also need to know that our focus is for our students to be in school and complete their education.”

He said the scholarship office needs to do its job. And that is, to make sure there is good communication with the students, to remind them that their transcripts must be submitted on time in order for them to receive their checks on time, “instead of you just sitting in the office waiting for parents to complain. Don’t use your chair as a rocking chair, but use it to serve our students,” Faimealelei said.

The Aua faipule said he doesn’t believe it takes over 2 months for the Treasury Department to process checks for students when it only takes two days to process per diem checks for representatives.

Fai’ivae explained that the delay in processing checks for scholarship students is caused by Treasury, not the scholarship board.

He said once they receive the student’s transcripts, which confirm that he/she is still attending school and their grades are stable, the Board signs all the necessary documents which are then forwarded to the Governor’s Office for approval.

Afterwards, it is sent to Treasury so checks can be processed.

Faiivae said they have to follow-up with Treasury, and once the check is ready, they pick it up and send it straight to the school, not the student.

He told the house committee members the delay in the issuance of checks is not their fault, as they have to wait on Treasury to issue the checks.

He said during delays, there have been times when he has had to personally go to the Governor’s Office to follow-up on the checks.

According to him, the problem could be solved if the funds that are allocated for scholarships were deposited into a separate account; instead, the money goes straight to the government’s general fund, and the treasurer has to wait until revenue is available before checks are issued.

When asked by Vesi if the delays are the fault of Treasury or the scholarship board, Faiivae said he doesn’t want to point any fingers, but he believes the scholarship board is doing its best to ensure that students receive their checks on time.

According to information provided to the house committee members, a total of 131 students are under the scholarship program for 2017 — attending school off island and at ASCC — with a total funding amount of $583,142.52

Gurr told the committee that one of the reasons why this old problem continues to linger is because the student waits to come home during school break, before turning in their transcripts, which must be sub- mitted in a timely manner.

She said some students wait until they return to school before sending their transcripts and by that time, school has already started.