AMERICAN SAMOA GOVERNMENT PROCEEDS WITH DRAINAGE PROJECT DESPITE LOSS OF FEDERAL

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FUNDING

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (December 31, 1998 - Samoa News)---There is a possibility that the Federal Highway Administration in Honolulu will not provide funding for the Nu‘uuli Drainage Improvement Project, according the agency's Division Administrator Abraham Wong.

Wong responded to a Samoa News inquiry yesterday regarding the federally funded project that has proceeded in reviewing bids according to the local preference law, despite warnings from the federal agency that they will not allow a local preference on Federal-aid Highway projects.

Under the American Samoa Government's (ASG) local preference law, any project of $1.5 million or less can only be bid on by on-island construction companies, which many believe to be a clear violation of the Federal Government Discriminatory act.

"There is a possibility that we will not participate if the (local preference) law applies," said Wong in a telephone interview from Honolulu yesterday.

In defending his enforcement of the preference law, Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) Lolo L. Moliga told Samoa News, "I am simply doing my job, and that is to enforce the local preference law."

The CPO confirmed yesterday that they have proceeded with the reviewing of the bids for the Nu‘uuli Drainage Project with the appointment of a five member Source Evaluation Board.

The Board, according to the CPO, is expected to make their recommendation soon and he said awarding of the contract should take place within the next week.

"As far as we know, they (ASG) have deferred in making a decision on the awarding of the contract while awaiting a legal opinion on the issue from the local government," Wong explained.

He, however, noted that American Samoa does have the authority to utilize the local preference law, but ASG will have to ask for their approval of the award if federal funding is to be involved.

"If any provision does not meet federal requirements, we would not participate in the project," he added.

According to Wong, a letter stating the federal government's views concerning the local preference law was sent to the Department of Public Works this month.

In that letter dated, Dec. 16, Wong informed Public Works Director Dr. Toafa Vaiaga‘e that the Federal Highway Administration will not allow a local preference on Federal-aid Highway projects."

"One of the most basic rules of Federal-aid Highway contracting is that construction contracts be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder," he added, noting that Section 112 of Title 23 requires that contracts for the construction be awarded "only" on the basis of the lowest responsive bid submitted by a bidder meeting established criteria of responsibility.

Wong also pointed out that provisions under ASCA 12.0210 and ASAC 10.0272 (local preference law) shall not be applied to Federal-aid highway contracts. In addition the contract provisions should clearly indicate that the statute and rule do not apply."

Wong noted that they have not been informed yet of the actions taken by ASG to enforce the local preference law in this case. He said he will thoroughly review all federal regulations before participating in the Nu‘uuli Drainage Improvement Project.

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

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