LACK OF FUNDS IN AMERICAN SAMOA GOVERNMENT ACCOUNT CREATES PAYROLL NIGHTMARE

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (June 6, 2001 – Samoa News)---Numerous government employees paid yesterday were shocked and angered when, after standing in line, they were told by Bank of Hawaii tellers that the bank would not accept government payroll checks, not even for deposit.

The workers predicament prompted numerous phone calls to Samoa News throughout the day.

Callers were upset that being unable to cash or deposit their "payroll checks" will delay their loan payments and meeting other family obligations.

So far, those ASG workers paid on Monday have been successful in cashing or depositing their paychecks.

It is not immediately known how the lack of funds will be rectified, as Acting Treasurer Talia Faafetai is off-island and could not be reached for comment. In his absence, comptroller Alan Burnham is in charge and he, too, could not be reached for comments yesterday despite several attempts.

Whether the problem will persist long enough to cover workers paid today and throughout the week remains unknown.

Some callers who bank with ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank claimed yesterday that they were referred to the Bank of Hawaii to cash their checks but were unable to do so.

Other callers said they were also told by BOH tellers to check back later in case there are funds available.

BOH general manager Brent Schwenke declined to comment yesterday on the workers’ dilemma, citing bank-client confidentiality.

A government official, who asked not to be identified, acknowledged that there was a "slight problem" with the payroll but would not provide any additional information.

The official said the government hopes to have it all resolved by this morning.

Resolving it today however does not sit well with many government employees seriously dependent on their paychecks.

"And what does the government expect us to do with our bills, purchasing food and other emergency necessities?" asked some frustrated workers who called late yesterday for information.

"I hope the federal officials sitting on the minimum wage committee know that there are problems here in American Samoa with the government payroll," said one irate male worker, one of the many that continued to call yesterday.

The Industry Committee 24 started reviewing on Monday the status of local minimum wages and is expected to complete its review on Friday.

With the banks not accepting the payroll checks, employees headed for the local stores to shop and cash their checks. But by yesterday afternoon, the Samoa News received word by several employees that the stores are not accepting the payroll checks even if a purchase is made.

Sources told Samoa News yesterday that one of the problems affecting the payroll this week was the alleged release of more than $280,000 of tax refunds last Friday. One of the refunds, according to sources, was for $11,000 to a high-ranking government employee.

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

For additional reports from the Samoa News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa News.

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