Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that at his request Chairman Nick Rahall of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Chairwoman Donna Christensen of the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, have joined him in calling upon the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a comprehensive review of Customs and Duties Laws in the U.S. Territory of American Samoa. Copies of the letter have been provided to the Governor’s office and to the Fono. The full text of the letter sent to Mr. Gene L. Dodaro, Acting Comptroller General of the U.S. GAO, is included below.
Dear Mr. Dodaro:
We are requesting that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a comprehensive review of Customs and Duties Laws in the U.S. Territory of American Samoa. Our purpose for a GAO study is to assist the U.S. Congress in its efforts to assess existing lapses or inadequacies that may pose security and economic risks to the United States from goods transshipped, via sea or air, from American Samoa to official U.S. ports of entry.
U.S. Federal administration of these islands was initially delegated to the Secretary of the U.S. Navy by the U.S. Congress in 1929 (48 USC Sec. 1661). In 1951, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 10264 transferring administrative responsibility to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. On June 2, 1967, the Secretary of the Interior approved the territorial constitution that the people of American Samoa had adopted in 1960 and revised in 1966.
Under the terms of this relationship, the American Samoa Government (ASG) is authorized to formulate and administer its Customs and Duties Laws. Such laws encompass security at ports and airports, inspection of persons and incoming merchandise and baggage, production of documents by entering or leaving vessels, boarding and searching vessels, release of imports, furnishing of invoices to Treasurer, and refund of duties or excise taxes.
We are unaware however of any comprehensive federal assessment of American Samoa’s Customs and Duties Laws and given the strategic location of American Samoa in the Pacific Region, the capacity of local Customs authorities is a matter warranting consideration.
We therefore request a review of the capacities of local authorities in performing and enforcing Customs and Duties Laws which, in effect, prevent security and economic events from occurring at U.S. ports of entry originating from American Samoa. Subsequently, we request an assessment of whether extant ASG Customs Laws and Duties, and their implementation, meet Federal standards and regulations for inspection and examination of its ports and airports.
Faleomavaega and colleagues concluded their letter by stating that “the status of Customs Laws in American Samoa has significant implications on U.S. national security and the political association between the United States and American Samoa. Your review and assessment in the areas outlined above is greatly appreciated. Given the critical nature of a GAO study to the course of action to be taken, we appreciate your assistance and consideration in this matter.”