Am. Samoa Governor Urges Compliance With Budget Laws
By Fili Sagapolutele
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 29, 2013) – Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga has called for full compliance of American Samoa’s Executive Branch and its semi-autonomous agencies with local budget law when it comes to timely submission of quarterly performance reports.
According to the governor, his administration has no intention of ignoring or violating this law, which calls for the quarterly financial reports to be transmitted to the Legislature about 40 days after the quarter ends.
The next American Samoa Government (ASG) quarterly financial report covers the first quarter of fiscal year 2013 from Oct. 1 - Dec. 31, 2012 and it’s due for transmission the middle of next month. This report will provide for lawmakers the latest financial status of ASG for this fiscal year, which ended Sept. 31.
Last week, Lolo urged Office of Planning and Budget acting director Catherine Aigamaua Saelua to start preparations of quarterly reports, as required by the budget law, for submission by the Executive Branch to the Fono.
The quarterly reports detail the accomplishment attained by each department, office and agency during the quarter for which appropriated funds were expended, wrote Lolo in a memo to Saelua and distributed to all ASG entities.
Lolo said it’s "imperative" that the executive complies with provisions of the law by transmitting the quarterly report on or before the deadline. Lolo emphasized "that failure of the executive branch to adhere to this legal requirement has been raised often by the Legislature in the past and it is not my intention to replicate or follow this pattern."
During Lolo’s tenure as Senate President — between 2005 and 2008, there were constant complaints from both the Senate and House over the delay in receiving required quarterly reports, which most of the time didn't include all entities of government.
It has been a continuing complaint from the Fono, including late last year when the outgoing administration failed to include in the FY 2012 fourth quarter performance reports of some of the most important entities of government — especially the Treasury Department — that would give the incoming administration and lawmakers the status of ASG at the end of the fiscal year.
Other important missing reports were from the American Samoa Power Authority and the LBJ Medical Center, which was faced with some very serious financial woes in FY 2012, and lawmakers wanted to know where they stood at the time.
Currently, the Lolo administration is faced with the task of putting together as accurate a report as possible for the first quarter of FY 2013 based on data and financial information collected from the last administration.
In his letter last week, Lolo urged the ASG budget office acting director to "alert" directors of this important task as soon as possible to ensure timely submission of the next quarterly report.
Lolo acknowledged in his letter that preparing the quarterly report will be "difficult at the outset" given that some agencies are without permanent directors.
He requested that the budget office send a memo to all ASG agencies, including semi autonomous entities, for their agency’s reports which will be compiled under one centralized executive branch quarterly report.
In his State of the Territory Address to the Fono, the governor said applicable expenditures for the first quarter of FY 2013 are still trickling in, making it almost impossible to provide an accurate total.
"That deficit spending occurred during the first quarter is certain," he said and noted that the administration is already forecasting a deficit of just over $5 million at the end of this fiscal year.
During his Senate confirmation hearing last week, the Treasurer-nomineeDr. Falema’o M. "Phil" Pili made it clear that his office is still reviewing all financial records of ASG before they will be able to provide a clear picture of ASG’s actual financial status.
In his House confirmation hearing, Falema’o admitted that the Treasury department does not have a specific formula for creating forecast reports, and there are currently no policies and procedures in place for the department.
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