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Treasurer and Budget head present no details on Gov’s Office projects

Sen. Togiola Tulafono
Malemo says a single piece of paper was what they given by the Governor’s Office to explain the projects

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Government Treasurer and Budget Director’s lack of detailed knowledge of most of the projects funded by the more than $15 million earmarked for the Governor’s Office in the $22 million supplemental bill submitted to the Fono on Monday, further exasperated Senate members yesterday morning.

Treasurer Malemo Tausaga and Budget Director Catherine Saelua had been subpoenaed by Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Utu Sila Poasa, with instructions to provide detailed information on the breakdown of the $15,953,000 earmarked for the Governor’s Office, from the $22 million of surplus funds from FY2022.

The two top government officials appeared at yesterday morning’s hearing with a single sheet of paper, which listed 18 projects with corresponding amounts that would be used to fund them.

Maui Fire Donation                                          $200,000.00

Moso’oi Festival                                                $50,000.00

Samoa Bowl                                                     $200,000.00

Overtime Compensation Fund                         $500,000.00

Ofu Sea Port Terminal                                     $150,000.00

Faleasao Sea Port Terminal                             $150,000.00

Fitiuta Airport Terminal                                  $250,000.00

Manu’a Air Travel Subsidy                              $200,000.00

Manu’a Sea Travel Subsidy                             $200,000.00

Washington DC Consultants                           $253,000.00

Manu’a Community Center                            $300,000.00

Swains Island Airport and Roads                 $5,000,000.00

PIF (SPC)                                                        $150,000.00

ANZ Building and Furniture                         $2,000,000.00

Dementia Awareness and Support.              $2,000,000.00

FAA Park                                                     $2,000,000.00         

DMWR Building                                              $850,000.00

Shoreline Improvements                             $1,000,000.00


TOTAL                                                      $15,953,000.00


Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean voiced his annoyance and disbelief at the vague explanation provided by the Governor’s Office on how such a huge amount of government funds were to be spent.

He referred to the Swains Island Airport and asked the Treasurer how the administration had arrived at such an amount to build an airport.

“Building an airport is a big undertaking,” Tuaolo said. “First you have to conduct a feasibility study, not to mention the many factors you have to consider to ensure the safety of the people who are going to use the airport.

“Who prepared this list and how did that person estimate the amounts to be spent on each project?

“Where are the records of the research, logistics and projected costs of such an important project?”

Malemo replied apologetically saying that he did not have a clear understanding of the logistics of the listed projects.

He emphasized that he had specifically informed the Governor’s Office that the Fono had instructed him to bring detailed information on the breakdown of the funds.

“However, this morning before we came to the hearing, we were given this sheet of paper with the list of the proposed projects and the projected costs,” Malemo explained.

Tuaolo then asked Budget Director Catherine Saelua if she could help shed light on the listed projects and numbers.

But Saelua also stated that she no knowledge of how and who prepared the list.

“Then whose idea is this,” asked an infuriated Tuaolo. “I would have thought that you’d discuss this matter with the governor as you are responsible for government funds and you Cathy are responsible for appropriating government funds.

“We are not saying we don’t support projects that would improve government operations and especially the quality of life for our people.

“But there are other projects that need to be prioritized by the government like the a new police substation at Tafuna.”

Tuaolo stated that he did not blame the two government officials for being in the dark because there is clearly a lack of communication between the governor and his cabinet members.

The exasperated Senate president expressed his discontent saying he felt like he was going to be ill, and he advised the chairman to reschedule the hearing and subpoena the person or persons who prepared the breakdown list.

This was supported by Senator Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono, who moved a motion to reschedule the hearing.

President Tuaolo again intervened and asked Treasurer Malemo to tell Senate members who in the Governor’s Office must they subpoena to explain in detail the breakdown of the funds, to which Malemo replied that the only person that could enlighten them on this matter was the governor himself.

“So we should subpoena the governor then?” Tuaolo asked.

“Yes,” the Treasurer replied.

Senator Togiola T.A. Tulafono then expressed his sadness at the turn of events.

“I am very saddened by what has just transpired in your deliberations because never in the history of our government has a governor been subpoena to appear before the Fono,” the Sua senator who is also a former governor told Malemo.

“From experience, I know that whenever the governor wants a project done, he tells his cabinet members what he wants and they work together to get it done.

“But now you have told the Senate president to subpoena the governor and have him explain this matter.

“Is this what you really want?”

Malemo apologized and said that he had spoken too soon, and that he did not want that to happen. He also pointed out that they were never informed about some of the listed projects.

In addition, he agreed that the governor informs them of what he wants to do and that they (the cabinet) make sure that whatever it is eventuates.

However, Malemo stated that he cannot answer a question about something which he was not informed about, which was what had happened when Tuaolo had asked him about the logistics of the Swains Island airport.

Togiola said that this was a very important matter and that the problem was caused because of the lack of communication.

He advised the two officials to go back and meet with the governor and discuss the matter with him and request the information that the Fono wants, then report back to the Fono with all the needed information explaining the breakdown.

In the end, Senate members voted to approve only eight of the proposed budget items and leave the 9th item — earmarking $15,953,000 for the Governor’s Office for further review.