Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is responding to a letter he received on February 4, 2005 from Mr. George Webster, Territorial Auditor. Mr. Webster copied his letter to the media and, in fairness to the public, Congressman Faleomavaega is also providing the media with a copy of his response including a letter from the Department of the Interior which states that it agrees that that there is no reason to duplicate the existing authority of the Inspector General and that neither Secretary Norton nor the Department’s Inspector General, Mr. Earl Devaney, plan to suggest that the office of Government Comptroller be revived. The full text of Faleomavaega’s letter to Mr. Webster is printed below.
Dear Mr. Webster:
I am in receipt of your letter dated February 4, 2005 regarding my comments about re-instituting the Office of the Government Comptroller in American Samoa.
My position regarding American Samoa is the same today as it was yesterday as it will be in the future. I do not support corruption of any kind nor have I ever supported corruption. In fact, even as Common Cause has reported, I have aggressively fought to rid American Samoa of corruption and I have repeatedly called for federal investigations and GAO studies so that our people can have a full accounting of where their money is going and what is happening in their government.
This said, I will not allow American Samoa to be discriminated against in any way and this means I will not support the re-establishment of a government comptroller in American Samoa unless the federal government re-establishes government comptrollers in Guam, CNMI, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico. For your information, the U.S. Congress disbanded the government comptroller position and transferred its oversight functions to the Inspector General’s office to assist American Samoa in developing into a fully-functioning, self-governing entity and I will oppose any and all efforts to strip American Samoa of its hard-earned freedoms.
While I agree that American Samoa’s local audit laws may need to be strengthened, your job is to submit an annual report that identifies weaknesses in the law so that ASG can take corrective action. Instead, you prepared a 5-page report and, in my opinion, there is no justification for this. Annual reports by definition are to be a compilation of a year’s work. Annual reports are not be abbreviated to the extent that the report becomes useless to the public and the government. I refer you to annual reports submitted by Guam and CNMI. In 2002, Guam’s annual report was more than 30 pages. CNMI’s was 23 pages. Both included very specific examples of violations and recommendations for improvement.
I would encourage you to review these annual reports and use them as a model in executing your duties. I am confident that once you provide the government and the public with an informative report that identifies weaknesses and includes your recommendations to strengthen local laws that corrective action will be taken. Again, local law mandates that corrective action be taken at the local level and it is the responsibility of the Fono to introduce legislation for this purpose. While you mention that some local Senators and Representatives support you, I am troubled that they have introduced no legislation in the Fono to assist you and I can only conclude that this is because you have not provided the Legislature with the substantive documentation it needs to proceed.
You also mentioned that the TAO in CNMI operates with an annual budget over $3 million. This is understandable given the fact that CNMI annually exports about a billion dollars worth of clothing apparel to the U.S., has a thriving tourism industry that accounts for almost 500,000 visitors a year, has other revenue generating enterprises and an annual budget that surpasses American Samoa, and also has a population of almost 80,000.
In response to your comments about my interest in the TAO, I will explain to you that my job is to represent the people of American Samoa in federal matters. The people of American Samoa elected the Governor and the Fono to represent their interests locally. Out of respect for the differences in our roles and offices, I, as a matter of practice do not comment on local issues or about local agencies like the TAO. However, when you called for the U.S. Department of the Interior to discriminate against American Samoa by re-instituting the Office of the Government Comptroller, you made this matter my business and I hope I have made it clear to you that I will not allow any federal agency to discriminate against the people of American Samoa.
To reiterate, this means that I will not support the re-establishment of a government comptroller in American Samoa unless the federal government re-establishes government comptrollers in Guam, CNMI, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico. I can assure you the federal government has no intention of re-instituting government comptrollers in the insular areas and the U.S. Department of the Interior agrees that the office should not be re-established in American Samoa. Neither Secretary Norton nor Mr. Earl Devaney, the Department’s Inspector General, plans to suggest that the office of Government Comptroller be revived.
In fact, in a letter dated February 8, 2005 and in response to my letter of January 26, 2005, the U.S. Department of the Interior has informed me of the following:
Dear Mr. Faleomavaega:
Thank you for your letter of January 26, 2005, to Secretary Gale A. Norton, regarding suggestions that the office of Government Comptroller for the Territory of American Samoa be reconstituted. Secretary Norton asked that I respond to your letter on her behalf.
Last October, the territorial auditor of American Samoa wrote on the same subject. The Director of the Office of Insular Affairs responded that the Department does not have authority to reconstitute the position. A copy of that response is enclosed.
In disbanding the office of Government Comptroller in 1982, the Congress in section 402 of Public Law 97-357 transferred the authority of the comptroller to the Inspector General of the Department Interior. That authority remains with the Inspector General today. We agree with you that there is no reason to duplicate the existing authority of the Inspector General.
Neither Secretary Norton nor Mr. Earl Devaney, the Department’s Inspector General, plans to suggest that the office of Government Comptroller be revived.
P. Lynn Scarlett
Policy, Management and Budget
Given this final statement on the subject, I would encourage you to resolve your issues at the local level and work with the Governor and the Fono, who have been elected by the people, to strengthen the Territory’s audit laws. I would also encourage you to be more forthcoming with the public about why you have pushed for re-instituting the Office of Government Comptroller. On November 15, 2004, the Department of the Interior responded to you in a letter that states the following:
Dear Mr. Webster:
The Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) has received your October 27, 2004 letter. You wrote to recommend that the Department of the Interior re-institute the position of Government Comptroller for American Samoa in the Office of the Secretary of the Interior. You continued that you would be honored to be considered an applicant for such a position, once re-established.
While I will make no judgments about why you would recommend that the
Department of the Interior re-institute the position of Government Comptroller for American Samoa and, at the same time, you asked to be considered as an applicant for the position, some might construe your motives to be self-serving. Whatever the case, the Department of the Interior has made it very clear in its letter to me dated February 8, 2005 that neither Secretary Norton nor Mr. Earl Devaney, the Department’s Inspector General, plans to suggest that the office of Government Comptroller be revived.
Again, the U.S. Department of Interior agrees with me that there is no reason to duplicate the existing authority of the Inspector General and that neither plan to suggest that the Office of the Government Comptroller be revived in American Samoa. Will you now suggest that the Department of the Interior is also corrupt and impeding your efforts?
As an elected official, I am used to people making false accusations against me but now that the Department of the Interior has weighed in on this matter, I am hopeful that you will put this matter to rest and provide the American Samoa Government with an annual report that includes the substantive documentation it needs to strengthen local audit laws. As importantly, I am hopeful that you will work quickly to resolve your concerns with ASG so that your office can work more effectively for the betterment of our Territory and for the good of the community.
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA
Member of Congress
“In conclusion, I understand that some will continue to twist this issue for their own political gain. However, Secretary Norton and the Department’s Inspector General have made their position clear. Both agree that the Office of Government Comptroller should not be re-established in American Samoa and I sincerely hope that as result of this announcement that the territorial auditor will now respect the local and federal laws that are in place to assist him in doing the job that he was entrusted to do,” the Congressman concluded.