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New Fono IT building opens ‘paperless’ era at the Fono

The Fono’s Information Technology (IT) building, which is geared towards moving the legislature “paperless”, was officially dedicated yesterday with several lawmakers in attendance including their special guest Governor-Elect Lolo Matalasi Moliga, the former Senate President.

House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale’s wife, Sakala Ale, was given the honor to cut the ribbon before a tour of the building began.

“This is a great idea by the Fono leadership to have such a building in place to house all IT matters pertaining to the legislature,” Lolo told Samoa News after the ceremony. “This same idea of an all purpose IT building that will include staff and computer network was already in the planning stage before my term as senator expired.”

As a matter of fact, Lolo told Samoa News in an interview in 2007 that the Fono needs to go “paperless” in its work to keep costs down and eliminate unnecessary use of paper. Additionally, he said, at the time, the Fono needed to look to the future to improve information technology so that the public had more access to Fono records and journals via the internet.

For the current Fono, Lolo said this new project makes it easy for lawmakers and staff to do their work, noting again “it’s also important that government service is accessible to the public in this age of modern technology.”

As reported by Samoa News several times since last year, initial funding for the two-story IT building, which included construction and its “Paperless MIS System” project of $500,000 came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, through allocation from the ASG stimulus office.

Among the many purposes of this new project is to facilitate updating of the American Samoa Code immediately after legislation is signed into law and final enrollment is completed.

Moreover, development of a paperless electronic system will afford the opportunity to electronically replace all legislative archives instead of exposing historic documents to risk of damage and loss while in storage.

The goal of the project is to build a digital archiving system (paperless) for the Fono, provide a secure wireless environment giving legislative members flexibility in accessing data, and to develop Fono IT processes and methodology for an internal IT Support Team.

Funds for the project were first awarded last year with plans by the Fono leadership to dedicate the building in January this year but it was then changed to the beginning of July this year — which didn’t happen.

However, Senate President Gaoteote Palaie Tofau told yesterday’s gathering that this project has faced continued stops along the way — but he didn’t elaborate. He said that even up to several weeks ago, there was a halt to the project — and again didn’t elaborate further.

Samoa News understands that the last work stoppage on the building was due to the lack of funds to put the finishing touches inside the two-story structure that will house not only IT staff and those who work in the Legislative Reference Bureau, but will also house the new computer network.

The Fono leadership were able to scrape together an additional $100,000 from the Fono’s budget to cover costs to finish the project.

It was revealed during the dedication that the Department of Public Works was initially asked to do the construction work in order to save money, but that didn’t happen so, Paramount Builders was given the task — i.e. the job was not put out to bid.