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Senators at odds over cutting out ASPA off island board members

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Senate rejects ASPA legislation in second reading

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Senate last week Thursday rejected in second reading an administration bill, which sought to remove from local law the two off island board members for the American Samoa Power Authority board of directors, following a committee meeting earlier that day.

During the meeting, Senate Power, Water & Energy Committee chairman Sen. Ma’o Fa’auma Gogo informed senators he wanted the panel to meet first to discuss the bill without witnesses before moving forward on the measure to get feed back and input from senators.

Sen. Magalei Logovi’i noted that while the bill’s provision dealing with the appointment of two off-island board members is removed, the measure kept intact a separate provision of current law that provides for compensation for the two off-island board members.

The Tualauta senator suggested that the committee return the legislation back to the Administration to make the necessary amendments, to either delete from the law per-diem/ compensation or reinstate the two off-island board members.

To save time, Sen. Tuiagamoa Tavai suggested that the committee make necessary changes that they see fit.

However, Sen. Malaepule Saite Moliga suggested that his colleagues look into the importance of the two off-island board members, providing their experience and knowledge that has and will continue to benefit ASPA as well as the territory.

The Manu’a senator recalled during the time of the late ASPA executive director Utu Abe Malae the benefits received by American Samoa from the off-island board members.

Sen. Utu Sila Poasa recommended that the committee bring in witnesses, to testify on the benefits and contributions that off-island board members have made to ASPA.

Sen. Ponemafua Tapeni noted that he retired from ASPA some two years ago and recalled, Utu Abe Malae — during his time at the helm of this ASG entity — sent many local American Samoans off-island to be educated and trained and return back to serve ASPA and the people of the territory.

He pointed out that there are many local American Samoans who have the expertise and knowledge to serve but they have all left ASPA.

Sen. Fai’ivae Iuli Godinet agreed with Ponemafua that local American Samoans should be given the chance to take the lead role at ASPA.

After other senators shared their views, Senate Tuaolo Manaia Fruean suggested for the committee to return the measure to the Administration for further review and make changes that the governor see fits.

In the end, the committee made the final decision to reject the bill, and this was done during second reading. The legislation remains pending in the House.

In submitting the bill to the Legislature early this month for review and action, Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga informed Fono leaders that the current requirement that at least two members of the board of directors of ASPA are from off island “is an outdated concept.

“Our people have the skill and knowledge to administer our own affairs,” the governor pointed out.