ASPA claims there is "no surplus" and bonuses are justified by law
The American Samoa Power Authority has accused Samoa News of inaccurately reporting an $8 million surplus for fiscal year 2011 but didn't provide any explanation as to how much the authority paid out in recent bonuses amid water and solid waste rate hikes by the semi-autonomous authority.
Based on ASPA's fourth quarter performance report for FY 2011, Samoa News reported that total revenue at the end of the quarter stood at $131.88 million ($131,888,213), while total expenses were listed as $123.03 million (or $123,037,261)-- resulting in a surplus of $8.85 million.
Three lawmakers, including Rep. Larry Sanitoa, told Samoa News they questioned what they too, saw as a "surplus" while rates were hiked Oct. 1 this year and they believe that the report needs to be further analyzed.
In a public notice issued late Wednesday afternoon, ASPA said it "wishes to advise our valued ratepayers of the inaccuracies of the recent publication by Samoa News on Friday, October 18, 2011" and provided an explanation.
(The Public Notice will be published in its entirety as an ASPA paid advertisement, starting in tomorrow's edition of Samoa News.)
"The ASPA DOES NOT have any surplus in cash as the [4th quarter] report may have implied of $8,850,951," the notice states. "The lawmakers clearly missed the fact that our revenues consist of ‘Grant Revenues' that comes with terms and conditions restricting its application and usage."
"The integration of our Grant funds received for revenue into this reporting format for ASG does not reveal the full detail and is the main reason the 4th Quarter report is reflecting a surplus," it says.
With the continuing Tsunami related projects, the ASPA grants portion of the FY 2011 budget has had additions due to the Temporary Power Generation System supported by FEMA, it says.
"This is additional funding received from FEMA related projects, specifically the existing 18 MW portable generators currently being utilized in Satala," said ASPA. "The total of the reflected overage from the reports is due to the FEMA related projects, which amount to $5,571,705, and a number of outstanding unpaid accrued expenses for local operations - $3,279,246 - that make up the remainder of local revenues to enable the ASPA operations to pay down its accumulated debts and the cost of operating the ASPA on a daily basis in order to fulfill its utility service to the community."
"These grant funds CANNOT be used for local Operation costs or to offset any past due amounts owed to ASPA. These grant funds are strictly for grant related projects and will reflect as a surplus until the amounts are spent, which has not happened in FY 2011," said ASPA.
"Although the ASPA Operating Revenue and Expenses for FY 2011 reflected a surplus, this is only based on the actual accrued revenue (billed revenue) and not collected revenue - cash collected," it says. "Because of the ASPA revolving receivables at $13.6M as billed and not what was collected. If ASPA was able to collect 100% of its receivables, then a surplus would exist and the rates WOULD be lowered."
"A review of the ASPA cash flow makes it clear that there is no surplus and in fact ASPA is operating with a nine ($9M) million deficit," it says.
Also in the Nov. 18 Samoa News story, Sanitoa questioned if this surplus has been used to fund the bonuses that were recently given to certain ASPA employees and management.
ASPA chief executive officer Andra Samoa has yet to reply to Samoa News questions about the bonuses. Among the questions sent to Samoa was this question: "How much in total was paid out?"
In its notice, ASPA explains that an Incentive Awards Committee was established in accordance with the ASPA Personnel Rules, and the Board directed the management team to properly administer these bonuses as a means of rewarding employees for their hard work.
It says the criteria and guidelines that the ASPA management follows are clearly spelled out in Chapter 26 of the American Samoa Administrative Code (4.2601 to 4.2608) .
"The ASPA incentive program is a long standing program that has been part of our approved budgets over the years," the notice says. "It is the policy of the ASPA to provide a method which affords recognition of exceptional skills, resourcefulness or exceptional acts of employees who perform special acts or services in the public interest which reflect favorably on the image and reputation of the agency."
ASPA says this recent payout of bonuses "focused on employees who worked tirelessly after the Tsunami and throughout the rebuilding process of our operations which included all levels of employees and not just upper management or middle management employees."
"In light of the tough economic times and the justification of paying out these incentives, we cannot and will not allow our hardworking employees to go unrecognized as they are the most valued asset of the ASPA Family," it says.
Several years ago, ASPA paid out bonuses for certain employees during the tenure of then ASPA executive director Abe Malae and Samoa News reported on the bonuses at the time - based on confidential ASPA documents - which caused a big stir in the community.
Samoa News reporter Fili Sagapolutele contributed to this report.