Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga says up to now he has not been contacted personally by the US Department of Treasury concerning an investigation into the Section 1602 program.
Lolo was president of the Development Bank of American Samoa which administered the low income housing program and funded with a $30 million grant from the US Treasury through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
A report by the office overseeing ARRA programs in the territory, the American Samoa Economic Stimulus and Recovery Office released in September last year, raised serious anomalies in the selection of the more than 200 families who were awarded grants.
Last month KHJ News received confirmation from the attorney for the Inspector General's Office of the US Treasury that the conduct of the 1602 program in American Samoa was under review.
We asked the governor if he has been advised by US Treasury regarding the investigation.
Governor Lolo said he was informed by the Acting President of DBAS back in January that he was notified that the Inspector General was going to conduct an investigation of the 1602 program.
The governor said he counseled the acting president of DBAS, who was accompanied by his legal counsel, to make sure that they cooperate fully with the investigators.
As for being informed, Lolo said to date, the investigators or the Department of Treasury have not contacted him personally.
We also asked the governor if the former ASESRO Director Pat Galeai was being forced out of his ASG job and about perceptions that Galea'i is being targeted because of ASESRO's 1602 report which wasn’t favorable of DBAS’s administration of the program.
Governor Lolo said the issue about Mr. Pat Galea’i is in the hands of Human Resources. He provided some background to Galea'i's employment.
First he was told that Galeai was employed by DOC before before being moved up to the Governor’s Office. And he was originally on a contract because that is how he, Galea'i, became eligible to live in Government Housing.
But then Galea'i was converted to career service employment status but still living in government housing with his rent paid for by the government, said Lolo.
According to the governor, Galea'i is not being forced out of government Lolo told KHJ News he gave instructions to return Galea'i to his job before he was appointed to head ASESRO.
The budget to continue ASESRO however was not approved by the Fono. Consequently, all of those employees who worked under this unit were furloughed because there was no money to pay them.
The governor explained that since Galea'i was a career service employee and he was told Galea'i formally worked for DOC, Galea'i was sent to DOC.
However, the DOC director said Pat was never an employee of DOC …although he was housed at DOC, he worked for the Governor’s Office.
Lolo said he was also informed that Industrial Park money was used to pay for Galea’I’s salary before he was appointed to lead ASESRO.
The governor said this practice was stopped because it was an illegal use of Industrial Park funds. And the predicament is there‘s no funding for Galea's' position in the Governor’s Office.
The governor said the case of Galea'i is now with HR but pointed out the law is rather specific with respect to the continuation of a position without an approved source of funding.
Commenting on perceptions that Galea'i is being trargeted because of the 1602 report, the governor said this is unfounded.
His words: "If I had coerced Pat not to release his report, then the documented perception would be valid. However, even in May of 2012, before the election, Pat came to me and informed me that he was going to release his report to the Department of Treasury.
"I told him to do so without any concern on my part because I know no impropriety was involved because all the decisions made on the 1602 were discussed with the Department of Treasury. All drawdown requests for funds from the Department of Treasury were co-signed and approved by Pat or his designee within his office."
The governor continued, "When I was informed early January by the Acting President of DBAS about the investigation, I advised him to fully co-operate with the investigation. There is nothing therefore that would compel me to retaliate against Pat. Furthermore, Pat is my aiga."