23 Jul 2007

American Samoa Senate committee hears evidence in alleged purchasing scam

10:09 am on 23 July 2007

The same pattern which emerged in the furniture scam at the Department of Education a few years ago has come to light in the purchase of parts and school bus maintenance jobs being investigated by American Samoa's Senate Select Investigative Committee.

In a three hour hearing last week, the committee questioned three DOE officials concerning the purchase of spare parts for school buses and maintenance of DOE vehicles by local company Pacific Products.

Information gathered by Senate staff showed that from October 2003 to September of 2006 the DOE paid $722,000 to Pacific Products for purchases of goods and services for the School Bus Transportation Division.

None of the purchases were put out to tender.

Introduced as evidence during the hearing was a letter from the DOE's Assistant Director of Administrative Services Johnny Fiu Saelua addressed to then Acting Director Dr, Claire Poumele requesting payment of Pacific Product invoices for parts for school buses.

A hand written note from Dr. Poumele appears on the letter instructing the Purchasing supervisor for DOE Juliette Penn to prepare Purchase Requisitions for the invoices.

It's the committee's belief that the same approval note was improperly used to process payments for other invoices from the same company.

Dr. Poumele said she only approved one transaction in the note that appeared in the letter.

The committee found that 11 invoices totaling $83,000 were processed for payment using the same note from Dr. Poumele.