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Senate rejects legislation downgrading qualifications for Territorial Auditor

Sen. Magalei Logovi’i

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Senate yesterday rejected in second reading the House version of an Administration bill, which seeks to amend local law by removing the requirement that the Territorial Auditor — who heads the ASG independent Territorial Audit Office — shall be a certified public accountant (CPA), or a certified internal auditor holding a current certificate from any state of the U.S.

The House version was introduced in the Senate on Monday and assigned to the Senate Rules Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Magalei Logovi’i requested to move the legislation forward for second reading yesterday and reminded senators that the Senate has already rejected its version of the bill.

Magalei reiterated this request before senators rejected the House bill during a vote in second reading. And the House is being informed via communication from the Senate.

The Senate took action on July on its version of the bill following a committee hearing, where Magalei said he believes the proposal “lowers the bar” for this important post, which is important to the government, while Sen. Utu Sila Poasa described the bill as downgrading the qualifications for the person who holds the post.

Other senators also disagreed with the legislation, while ASG officials who testified during the Senate hearing say that the Administration has been unable to secure a CPA, a position for which it is difficult to attract candidates due to the low salary and benefits offered for the post of Territorial Auditor.

The last Territorial Auditor was Robert Dantini, a CPA from Washington State, started in August of 2009 and resigned in December 2012 during the final days of the Togiola Administration, according to Samoa News archives.

Early this year, the governor appointed Tofa Sualauvi H. Su’a as acting Territorial Auditor for this office, while the Administration awaits the outcome of this now rejected bill.

Meanwhile, the Supplemental Budget for fiscal year 2022, which is going through the final approval process in both the Senate and House, includes $150,000 for the Territorial Audit Office to pay salary and related personnel expenses for a Territorial Auditor or Territorial Office staff.

At last Friday’s Fono Joint Budget Committee hearing on the legislation, Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean sought an explanation from the Governor’s Chief of Staff, Tuimavave Tauapa’i Laupola on the $150,000 allocation.

Tuimavave explained that the funds are to hire a qualified and experienced CPA and also to further improve functions of this office for auditing of ASG agencies. Tuaolo asked if this office would be able to audit Medicaid, to which Tuimavave said “yes”.

And if the Fono requests an audit of Medicaid, can this office carry it out — was Tuaolo’s follow-up question and Tuimavave’s reply was again “yes”.