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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (April 2, 1998 - Samoa News)---Governor Tauese Sunia has often trumpeted his close relationship with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt but, in recent correspondence, the top Interior official involved with territorial matters, Allen Stayman, broke with the Governor on a fundamental concern.

In a March 27 letter to Tauese, Stayman, Director of the U.S. Office of Insular Affairs, declined to endorse Governor Tauese's request to change the way the American Samoa Government (ASG) would utilize a $10 million per year federal Capital Improvement Project (CIP) allocation.

Stayman communicated his concerns to the Chief Executive last week, and offered several pointed criticisms, as well as a warning.

"The ultimate concern is that a growing list of uncompleted projects may seriously jeopardize our ability to continue justifying large sums of money for American Samoa 's CIP," stated Stayman in his March 27 letter to Governor Tauese. "This problem is further exacerbated by the mandated hold on the $2 million in projects contingent on substantial implementation of the financial recovery plan.

"Future grants will include a provision that will shift the funding to other projects if work is not started and completed in a timely manner," Stayman continued.

Stayman pointed out that "It is extremely important that these issues regarding the CIP Master Plan be resolved so that the Secretary's commitment to greater CIP funding for American Samoa remains credible."

When Governor Tauese Sunia was elected, he amended the CIP plan to set aside $1 million for improvement of village roads in 1998. Since the total amount of money available did not go up, the money had to be reprogrammed from other needs, like the multi-year Tualauta Sewer Project.

The main thrust of the proposed changes is to allocate an increasing amount of money for village roads in 1999-2003.

The current CIP plan calls for expenditures of $1 million this year on village roads (nothing has yet been spent) and $380,000 or less in subsequent years.

Tauese now wants to set aside $1 million in the subsequent years (1999-2003) as well, and he has indicated which projects he is willing to cut to fund the reprogramming.

Most of the cuts are made to water improvement projects (in the Eastern District, Aunu'u and Manu'a) and the ongoing, multi-year project to expand the Tualauta wastewater (sewer) system. Other projects, such as improvements to the landfill, also suffer.

Tauese had also requested Interior to set aside $300,000 every year for the purchase of new school buses. If approved, the funds for school bus purchases would come from money presently set aside for construction of classrooms.

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to samoanews@samoatelco.com

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