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Magalei claims 'no laws were violated' by payouts

Sen. Magalei Logovi’i, who was ASG Treasurer for the Togiola administration, has told his colleagues that no laws were violated when payouts were made to previous cabinet members as well as the previous governor and lieutenant governor.


Magalei’s statement was made at yesterday’s Senate Government Operations Committee hearing on the “payouts” when current ASG Treasurer Dr. Falema’o ‘Phil’ M. Pili was responding to questions from committee chairman Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli and other senators.


Magalei sought a chance to address the hearing and the people in the Senate gallery watching the drama unfold live thought the former treasurer wanted to question the witness. Instead, the former Treasurer made a statement, saying the payout was made during his tenure as Treasurer and he can answer many of the questions raised by senators to Pili, whose term only began in January this year.


Magalei said he fully understands the entire payout issue and no laws were violated. He spoke of the process involved such as the request going through the Department of Human Resources and Budget Office; adding that once the payment request is cleared through payroll, then the payment goes through.


He said there are concerns with the use of local funds for payouts but there are former directors, whose departments are fully paid by grants, including their pay. So, these directors, such as Department of Homeland Security, Territorial Energy Office and American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency, had their payouts funded by federal grants.


Magalei, again, told the committee he can testify on this issue given the chance.


(Other departments fully funded by federal grants are Department of Human and Social Services, Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, Office of Protection and Advocacy for the Disabled and Territorial Administration on Aging.)


Galeai responded saying that the committee had planned to call Magalei as a witness, after hearing testimonies from others during the ongoing probe. He also said the committee has requested additional supporting documents from the current Treasurer to see if the payouts on comp-time, annual leave and sick leave are all in accordance with the law.


Prior to Magalei’s statement, there was a call at the start of the hearing from Sen. Leatualevao S. Asifoa, asking if Magalei and Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono could be excused from attending the payout hearing since they are former cabinet members of the previous administration and their names are on the “payout” report.


Leatualevao said that maybe the two senators could be excused and allow the committee to continue its payout review. GaleaI responded that he has no authority to move for a fellow senator not to attend a hearing, adding that the committee hearing is not a court of law.


Galeai said the committee’s goal is to get a clear picture of the procedures involved with payouts and he did not believe there were any problems having Magalei and Soliai remain in the hearing.


Soliai quickly added that he and Magalei will remain throughout the hearing. Later in the hearing, Magalei left the Senate chamber because it was already after 11:15a.m. and reportedly was trying to make it to another meeting.


Sen. Tuiasina Siolosega Esera said that he wished that he had a chance earlier to speak prior to Magalei’s departure. He said Magalei claiming that no laws were violated with the payout, giving the impression that the payout report before the Senate is wrong and incorrect.


Tuiasina says he has serious concerns with the amount of hours claimed for annual and sick leave and the lingering question to him is whether an outgoing governor and lieutenant governor are entitled to get payouts for unused annual and sick leave.


Responding to committee questions, Pili confirmed that former directors whose departments are funded by grants had their payouts funded by grants and the rest of the payouts were from local funds.


He also says that the computer system keeps track of all payrolls for the workforce including directors and the system is being revamped to comply with federal labor laws.


Sen. Mauga T. Asuega told Pili that what needs to be done now by the new administration is find solutions to fix this problem, adding that no one should look back but look forward to make sure that this type of problem does not occur again.


He called on Pili and the new administration to identify the mistakes and problems and take corrective actions immediately.


Prior to the hearing coming to a conclusion, Galeai asked Pili for additional information — for clarification purposes — on the total payouts so far, how much money was budgeted, and to verify the accuracy of the numbers pertaining to annual leave, sick leave and comp-time.


A handful of senators pointed out that past administrations have done the same thing — making payouts for out-going cabinet members — and what occurred with the Togiola administration is nothing new.


However, the senators also said that there needs to be a thorough review of the law to ensure that everyone who was paid was entitled to the amount of money received and that the money was budgeted.


There are some senators who claim that the laws were violated with the payouts to former directors, as well as to the previous governor and lieutenant governor.