Lt. Governor scolds Dept. of Agriculture over “egg-gate”
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Lieutenant Governor Talauega E. V. Ale has warned Cabinet members to follow local and federal laws prior to implementing government projects.
He also zeroed in on the recent egg saga where the Department of Agriculture staff allegedly was seen delivering eggs imported from Samoa to local restaurants, yet it has been confirmed that importation of meat and eggs is limited to personal use, not commercial.
The Lt Governor led off with a Samoan proverb, “ia seu le manu ae silasila i le galu” (snare the bird and watch the breakers take appropriate actions).
The comments by Talauega were made during a Cabinet meeting yesterday held at the ASCC multipurpose building.
Talauega was circumspect about the appearance thatxxe the current administration is neglecting laws, and told them they must proceed with caution.
“Do not forget we have laws in place. Do not neglect the fact that we must uphold the law and the public will follow suit. When the governor gives directives on projects it does not mean we should bypass laws.”
He gave an example.
“If the governor directs you to build a road, you must first get the permit, look for funding for this project, hire the contractor, only then you can proceed with the project. You all know the process that goes into play before any project is implemented; but the governor did not say go and violate our laws and by-pass the process in place,” said Talauega.
Furthermore the Lt Governor pointed out that the governor wants to develop the two governments, Samoa and American Samoa in terms of trade.
“And he did not say for you to uplift the eggs imported from Samoa and sell it; that is not what the governor requires.”
Earlier this month, the eggs imported from Samoa were the subject of criticism before the Senate and the House of Representatives. Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono has called for a committee hearing on the controversial importation of eggs from Samoa that has been the subject of news media reports.
Soliai voiced his concern with the eggs imported from Samoa, saying that such imported products have not received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and this is a serious concern to the Fono.
Without USDA approval, Soliai says this raises concerns pertaining to the health affect on children who consume such products that have no federal oversight.
The House Agriculture Committee earlier also raised the same concerns during a House hearing in early February.
Acting Director of Agriculture Siauini Taala, testified before the House Agriculture Committee, confirming that egg imports from Samoa are now on hold, while they work on meeting the requirements of the USDA.
He also confirmed the eggs imported last month that led to the hearing before the House held by the Department of Health, was not over the quality of the eggs but due to unmet requirements for commercial imports of poultry into the territory.
Former Customs Agent and first term lawmaker Faipule Tapai Alailepule Benjamin Vaivao questioned the acting Department of Agriculture (DoA) director about why the DoA was involved in selling eggs from Samoa, when they are a government department and should be protecting the territory.
“This is why I know you’re not telling the truth, you have a business that is cited in the permit to import the eggs, but it is not limited to just the eggs, there is also taro, tumeric and lettuce that are being sold locally through this company,” said Tapa’i.
The lawmaker, expressed disappointment with Ta’ala, accusing him of not telling the truth.
Taala, explained that the eggs from Samoa are only for trial purposes. He also stated that the eggs cost $45 a case and that payments are sent back to Sunshine Farms owned by Frankie’s Company Ltd.
During the cabinet meeting yesterday Talauega urged the directors to follow the law.
“We must abide by our laws, look for legitimate ways to implement directives.
“My concern is we are the government and it is a must that we follow these laws; the public are looking at us to lead by example. If we don’t follow our own laws, they will do the same,” said Talauega.
He further noted when drug laws are violated there are penalties.
“In my view we have violated our laws, in terms of our budget, which was approved by law whereas if it’s allocated for a certain project it should be used for that specific project,” explained Talauega.
“My advice to the Cabinet today, do not forget we have to abide by our laws and the governor has emphasized this and that we must work in accordance within our respective budget.”
The Lt Governor further pointed out that directives given must be within department budgets and that they should not bid out projects and wait for funding.
“That is now how we handle our budget when it comes to projects.
“The issue at hand is that we lack patience and are neglecting laws in place,” said Talauega.
The Lt Governor also commended the Governor for taking initiatives and fighting for the benefit the people of the territory and went as far as the White House to plea for assistance.