Fono doesn’t control $15 m for new building

The disbursement of the $15 million allocated for the new Fono building is not controlled by the Fono leaders.

At a confirmation hearing of board members of the American Samoa Economic Development Authority on Friday, Treasurer Ueligitone Tonumaipe’a explained that all the invoices go off island to a bond holder to review if the invoices are valid and legitimate.

He said the funds would only be disbursed if the invoices are approved by the bond trustee.

And checks are issued directly to contractors.

Senate President Gaoteote Palaie who attended the confirmation hearing for Tonumaipe’a, Port Director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele and Attorney General Talauega Eleaslo Ale on Friday, said he and the Speaker sign the invoices, which then go to the Governor for his signature,nafter which the invoices are submitted to ASEDA.

ASEDA then submits the invoices to the bond holder,

Gaoteote said senators have repeatedly asked him about the use of the $15 million for the Fono project.

He said some think that the disbursement is controlled by the President and the Speaker but that’s not the case.

Treasurer Tonumaipe’a pointed out that the bond money belongs to the investors who have bought the ASEDA bonds and the money is not kept here, it’s at a US banking institution, US Bank.

He said all projects have to go through the procurement process and when invoices are submitted they are approved by the Speaker, President and the governor and then ASEDA sends them to the bond holder who will conduct a thorough review if the bills are illegitimate and used for the purpose the money was allocated for.

Senator Magalei Logovii, who is the Senate representative on the ASEDA Board assured his colleagues that the board members before them are the best guardians of the $15 million for the Fono project.

He said in reference to Tonumaipe’a, Taimalelagi and Talauega,  “these three especially will not waiver from the rules.”

Senator Tuaolo Fruean said he thought since the money has been approved for the Fono building that the Legislature should control its spending.

Tonumaipe’a pointed out that the bond money belongs to investors and they want to make sure the funds are spent correctly.

During the Senate regular session Friday, Tonumaipe’a, Taimalelagi and Talauega were approved by unanimous vote.

Iulogologo, who was absent at the confirmation hearing as he’s off island, was also approved…however one senator voted against his nomination.