Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga holds Cabinet meeting
Thursday - July 12, 2018
Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga held a Cabinet meeting at the Lee Auditorium which was well attended by Directors and agency heads as well as representatives from Samoan Affairs. Following opening remarks from Chief of Staff Fiu Saelua, a prayer was offered by Reverend Filifaatali M. Fuiava, Director of Agriculture. First to address the gathering was Director of the Office of Political Status Tapaau Dr. Dan Aga who presented an overall review of the recently held Youth Empowerment Summit. Dr. Aga stated the Summit was successful in bringing the youth together to explore and discuss pertinent issues. A summary of the findings of the Youth Empowerment Summit can be viewed here.
Next on the agenda was a reminder by Chief of Staff Fiu Saelua regarding the Adopt-a-School Program Summer in preparation for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year. Also noted was the regular island-wide cleanup as coordinated by ASPA and EPA.
Governor Lolo next addressed the recent development of a new health center in the Territory and asked the cabinet to ensure that proper procedures for permits and clearances are completed for new construction. The Governor expressed that it is important to support the development of new businesses in the Territory but stressed that there is due process to be adhered to. Governor Lolo indicated that some cabinet members were aware of this project and recommended all directors to “advise our community and the people who are involved that they follow the due process of law... especially in the health business.”
Director of Health Motusa Tuileama Nua spoke and confirmed the statements of the Governor regarding the need to follow proper procedures to obtain permits and approval from proper authorities including the CEO of the Hospital, Medicaid, DOC for licensing as well as the PNRS Board before any final proposal reaches the Governor for his review. Director Nua also said that it is important to work with outside entities that are hoping to offer services to the people of the Territory.
Next to speak was the Director of the Budget Office Cathy Saelua who after greeting the gathering, informed that the Budget Call for FY2019 has been transmitted and thanked the respective agencies and authorities for submitting their prospective budgets for review. Director Saelua explained that the budget ceilings were based on meetings between Treasury and revenue agencies projecting revenues for Fiscal Year 2019 upon which the budget is based. Budgets that were submitted under the ceilings are being finalized at this time and agencies that submitted budgets above the ceiling are in negotiations to bring their budgets under the ceiling. All budgets are being reconciled to be given to Governor Lolo for his final review before being printed to be presented to the Fono when it re-convenes in August. In closing, Budget Director Saelua thanked all agencies for the current year 2018 budgets, which were assisted by the budget freeze following Tropical Storm Gita in March and April, appearing to be on course to finish in the black.
Governor Lolo Moliga then asked that the authorities including the American Samoa Community College, American Samoa Telecommunications Authority and the America Samoa Power Authority meet with the Governor’s Office soon to review their respective budgets.
Chief of Staff Fiu next addressed the celebration of Manu’a Flag Day on July 16 which would be holiday for ASG employees. He detailed travel plans for Flag Day with the Manu’atele and limited space on a local airline. Governor Lolo explained that it would be a scaled down ceremony this year but with proper reverence for the importance of the occasion.
Chief of Staff Fiu then spoke about participation in the recent Polynesian Leaders Group Summit held in Tuvalu. American Samoa was represented at the Summit by Lieutenant Governor Lemanu Mauga, Governer's Executive Assistant Iulogologo J. Pereira Attorney General Talauega E. Ale and DMWR Director Va’amua H. Sesepasara. Governor Lolo stated that American Samoa will host the 2019 Summit per his request. The Governor explained that he wanted to host the summit firstly to demonstrate that although American Samoa has a different governing system from other Pacific countries, we are first Polynesian people. The opportunity to elaborate on the Tuvalu Summit was afforded to Lieutenant Governor Lemanu who spoke about the agreement of the Polynesian leaders at the Tuvalu meetings to hold the 2019 Summit in American Samoa. The topics of the Tuvalu Summit included climate change/global warming and the effects on the islands and people of the Pacific. Discussions were held based on finding solutions to this looming problem. Another topic discussed was the establishment of the Office of Secretariat of the Pacific Leaders Group to which Prime Minister of Samoa Tuilaepa offered to finance and host the Office in Samoa for the first 2 years. Those plans are in the process of being finalized in August or September. There were discussions concerning Islands wanting to join the PLG which include Hawaii, Rapa Nui and a Maori contingent from New Zealand. The Attorney General then added that the meeting was successful and described the warm reception they received from the Tuvalu Government and people. One thing that stood out to him was the fact that Tuvalu is a small island/country but is independent which can be useful in our discussions pertaining to our own political status. Governor Lolo has selected a committee to prepare for the Summit in 2019. Secretary of Samoan Affairs Paramount Chief Mauga requested that Samoan Affairs be represented on the planning committee for the upcoming 2019 PLG Summit.
Governor Lolo next spoke about a vital issue in the relationship with the Federal Government which is the High Risk status of some federally funded programs which has been a challenge since 2013. To this end, Governor Lolo has re-established the Office of Grants Management with a focus on high risk areas such as Education, Public Health, the Territorial Administration on Aging, Homeland Security and all other federally funded agencies that need to bring their operations into full compliance. The Governor has designated Jerome Ierome to head the Office of Grants Management and will be working with respective agencies to manage federal grant funds. Governor Lolo requested full cooperation and support to achieve this goal. Governor Lolo next informed of the addition of Paul Young to the Office of the Governor to utilize his insights and expertise to assist the American Samoa Government, especially regarding economic issues. Governor Lolo asked cabinet members to give him their full support.
An opportunity was then given to Authorities for brief status reports. First to speak on behalf of ASPA was Wallen Young who provided a report detailing their efforts to stabilize operations with an assurance that all is well although some financial challenges exist but controls are in place to move forward.
Next to report on behalf of the Medical Authority was Emau Amosa who reported all was progressing well at the Hospital. On behalf of ASCC, Dr. Lina Scanlan reported that the college is moving forward with their efforts to provide high quality education to the students although the college also faces financial challenges. Recruitment of newly graduated high school students is a priority which is being pursued through media campaigns and public outreach. Dr. Scanlan thanked the various agencies that play a role in the success of ASCC, especially to Director of Education Ruth Matagi-Tofiga for support in Summer Lab School at Pavaiai Elementary which will graduate 17 teachers this Fall.
On behalf of DBAS, President Ruth Matagi described their efforts to continue to assist local businesses through their loan programs.
For ASTCA, Acting CEO Fala Sualevai provided an update of the upcoming launch of the Hawaiki Cable and extended a formal invitation to the Cabinet members to attend. The ASTCA Nuuuli store will be relocated to another location which will enable better service to customers.
For the American Samoa Shipyard Authority, a brief summary detailed the anticipated completion of their new facility by the end of September, phase 2 of the CIP restoration project is on-going and also maintenance of a boat from Rarotonga and the Manu’atele is pending.
Chief Librarian Justin Maga reported on behalf of the Feleti Barstow Library that all programs are proceeding well with the annual Summer reading program underway and partnerships with various community projects such as the BYU Alumni Reading Program in Malaeimi and with Director Evelyn Satele and TAOA providing reading and technological activities for the elderly. Librarian Maga also reported that their competitive grant funding has been re-approved for another two years which will provide continued employment for some Library staff.
Administrative Law Judge Marie Alailima-Lafaele informed the cabinet about the duties of the ALJ office and encouraged Directors to look at their respective agency rules and statutes to ensure they are aligned and consistent with guidelines. The ALJ offered her assistance to achieve this goal.
Before closing, Governor Lolo reminded the gathering about the commitment to the people of American Samoa and encouraged the Cabinet members that this is the chance to have a positive impact as public servants to serve the people of the Territory. He stated that there are enough projects being planned describing groundbreaking for six infrastructure projects the previous month and six projects planned in the next two months. Governor Lolo stressed that hard work and adherence to budgetary limits will be appreciated by the next administration and especially by the people of American Samoa.
Final remarks were offered by Paramount Chief Mauga Asuega before the meeting was concluded and members of the Tuvalu delegation presented their traditional gifts to Governor Lolo and the American Samoa Government.