The debt owed by the Government to the American Samoa government for the American Samoa Hawaii Cable (A.S.H.) contract that was signed in 2009 remains unknown with officials refusing to divulge more information.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi recently said the Government stepped in to assist Computer Services Limited (C.S.L.) – which is owned by the State – and paid off its debts to A.S.H., but did not give details on how much public funds were expended in the transaction.
Minister of Communication and Informational Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, said C.S.L. should not be blamed.
“The contract is between the Samoa Government and the American Samoa Government, not C.S.L. This debt has nothing to do with C.S.L.,” he said, though he was unclear on how much the deal was signed for and the debt to the American Samoa government.
During a recent interview, Afamasaga said Samoa used a satellite dish and had no fiber optic cable, until the American Samoa government made the offer.
“We were given a very expensive deal at the time when American Samoa offered for us to sign on and at the time in 2009, the deal was quite expensive and we couldn’t sign anything less than 10 years."
“It was one of those deals, take it or leave it and of course in bettering our services to the people, we saw it as an opportunity for our people to connect and in their interest, we signed on a 10-year contract."
“Always keep in mind that cable is much more efficient than satellite, which is what we had. However, over the years as satellite got cheaper, we were paying more attention to the satellite and not the cable, given that its life span was literally deteriorating,” he added.
Going back to the signed contract, he reiterated that it was signed by the Samoa Government and American Samoa.
“The C.S.L. being the arm of Government on the I.T. side of things, they were tasked to sell the cable deals. However, as the satellite prices got cheaper, it was hard for C.S.L. to sell the cable packages.
“They were signing on local contracts to get on the cable, just like what we are doing now and that was the role of the C.S.L.”
The Minister said Government was unable to renegotiate because there were contractual obligations for the Government to pay as per the contract.
Repeated efforts to get direct comments from the C.S.L. management were unsuccessful.