Ta’u senator recommends to governor to use CARES funds for LBJ
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Vice President of the Senate and Senator from Tau, Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua in a letter has recommended to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to use part of the funds from the CARES Act to help improve the conditions at the LBJ Hospital, including hiring professional doctors and nurses.
In his July 21st, 2020 letter to Lolo, Nua said that he was sad and disappointed to witness the distribution of the CARES Act Funds to villages and the Fono. He said that he understands that 35 million dollars issued by the US Treasury as funds allocated specifically for the Coronavirus and Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act were apparently not correctly used as intended.
“Some agencies within the government were given a portion of this money. For example, if 4 villages were given $10,000 to curb the drug issue, what about the villages of Ta’u Manu’a? If this was the case, the allocation of funds should have included ALL the villages of Tutuila and Manua,” said Nua.
He told Lolo that the way the funds were allocated concerns him greatly. He believes that the CARES Act allocation was not intended as a measure to control drugs from invading our villages.
Nua said that it is a fact that American Samoa is Coronavirus Free and these Federal Funds should be kept within our government. He said that he has returned his $10,000 check in part due to the fact that the funding should be used mostly for the LBJ Hospital as an absolutely priority and not for non-covid public health issues.
He also stated that his constituents from the Manu’a Islands have noted a complaint in reference to the allocation of these funds.
Nua recommended that 80% of the funds should go for the improvement of the LBJ Hospital, including funding supplies and improving facilities of dispensaries in the villages of Amuoli, Tafuna and Leone.
He further recommends the return of such funds — their checks, including village allotments “to the American Samoa Government (ASG) Treasurer.”
SUMMARY REPORT OF COVID-19 FUNDS USAGE
Last month, the American Samoa Coronavirus Task Force presented to the Fono a summary report of all COVID-19 Federal Assistance Grant Funding and the amount allocated to each Department.
In the report, 14 departments and agencies including the LBJ Hospital received funds from the COVID-19 Federal Assistance Grant Funding. According to the report, $4.8 million is awarded to the LBJ Hospital for medical equipment, medical supplies, renovations/ infrastructure /facilities and also to cover personnel costs.
The report stated that $6.6 million was awarded to the Department of Health for medical supplies and equipment; communication system upgrades and improvements; personal costs including new personnel hires and overtime pay, and equipment recertification.
The Department of Education received that largest amount from the COVID-19 Federal Assistance Grant Funding in the sum of $38.3 million, while the Department of Homeland Security received the lowest amount of $259,066.
Last month, Deputy Inspector General of the US Department of Treasury Richard Delmar said in his letter to the American Samoa Government (ASG) Treasurer Ueligitone that stipend payments made to the Fono of $20,000 and $10,000 have to be returned.
Delmar said in his letter that since Fono members were already in telework capacity prior to COVID-19 due to the ongoing contraction of the legislative building, he believes the stipend payment is unrelated to the COVID-19 health emergency.
Ever since ASG has received financial assistant from the COVID-19 Relief Funds, and issuing stipend payments to the Fono and also 4 villages in the territory, people of the community are calling out to the government leaders to use these funds wisely — especially hiring professional doctors and nurses to care for the health of the people.
Members of the community have contacted Samoa News to voice their concerns on the misuse of these funds by the government.
One caller said, “Please report fraud to stop corruption and save tax payers money. Our first responders must get hazard pay and our Fire Division need new fire trucks.”
Last month, protesters voiced their concern about the government’s use of federal Covid-19 funds. The protest organizer, Aitofi Solipo told Samoa News that the funds were being misused. “So that’s why we are protesting, there’s a lot going on with the funds from the Federal government but there’s a lot of misuse of funds from our government.”
(Samoa News should point out that the Senator Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua is a 2020 candidate for governor of the gubernatorial team of Nua &Tapumanaia.)