IT dept continues to operate, despite having no budget
Despite uncertainty in their funding, the director of ASG Information Technology Department says IT is still operating so it can continue its current programs and hold up their end of an agreement between the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency.
ITD along with the American Samoa Economic Stimulus and Recovery Office (ASESRO) are two ASG agencies without budgets in fiscal year 2013, which began Oct. 1, when the Fono transfered their funding to under the Governor's Office through an FY 2013 supplemental appropriation. The supplemental proposal was rejected by the Senate, which resulted in no budget for IT and ASESRO.
Gov. Togiola Tulafono is hoping to restore funding for the two agencies under a new supplemental appropriation to amend the FY 2013 Budget Act to be included in the agenda of the special session the governor wants to call to convene Oct. 22nd.
With no budget, IT is scrambling to look for federal grants to continue its operations, which includes a new executive order issued earlier this month by the government to establish an IT Management Council to communicate IT programs for all ASG.
Responding to Samoa News questions, ITD director Easter Bruce said their department is still operating.
“We must operate as we would be violating a Memorandum of Understanding/Memorandum of Agreement with EPA to complete the IT installation project for their new building – this is probably more serious of a violation and would further bring injury to IT if we just threw our hands up in the air and stopped working,” Bruce told Samoa News last Friday.
“We continue to work to make sure we do a quality job at EPA before the opening of their new building on the 29th of October. We're excited for them and it's our first IT job,” she said in an upbeat mood.
Samoa News has learned that the ITD was able to get paid during the last ASG payroll with funds form their FY 2012 budget, but their next payroll — which is next week Monday is uncertain.
“I know there may be a chance that we may not get paid next pay period, but we do have money coming in but it's staggered so conceivably we may miss a paycheck or maybe not. We're hoping for the best,” she said, adding that they now have a staff of nine instead of 10.
She said Nate Ilaoa, the acting deputy director requested a transfer two Fridays ago and she was made aware of it that afternoon over the phone. "I obliged his request to transfer to the Department of Health to a position that he had already coordinated with the [acting] Director of DoH” sometime about two Wednesdays ago, she said.
"We do wish him well with his new organization," she said, adding that ITD is looking at federal grant funding to continue operations, if there is no other options available from the local government. Bruce is also the ASG Chief Information Officer, who heads ITD.
As to the IT Management Council (ITMC), the governor's executive order states that this council is established within the Office of the Chief Information Officer of the ITD. The ITMC is lead by the chief information officer and their executive staff, with logistical and planning support provided by ITD.
“The purpose of the Council shall be to foster and facilitate the development and use of information technology through collaboration and interagency development of standards, policies and initiatives to improve services provided by the governor; through the use of technology and information technology,” the governor said in his order.
He said members of the ITMC comprise the IT manger, or an employee who acts in the capacity of each executive branch entity. Additionally, ITMC membership is extended to IT managers within the Legislative and Judicial branches to continue to foster and develop inter-branch communications through technology.
Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Bruce explained that the ITMC "was established to open channels of collaboration and communication with agencies that have IT managers in place and to simply include them in the strategic planning but most importantly to get their buy-in and utilize their technical experience. "
This helps ITD a great deal especially when a large project such as migrating the official government email, as.gov, over to Google, she said.
Additionally, ITD also wanted to coordinate engineering discussions with the more technical ITMC members regarding projects like "re-engineering the communications infrastructure of EOB" — in the absence of a Network Engineer or an Enterprise Architect working for the IT department, the next best source is collaborating with experienced IT network managers such as Kirk Aab, MIS Manager for Treasury, and Ray Tulafono, the new IT Manager for the Department of Homeland Security.
"The ITMC was also a means to identify and collect training requirements for technicians," she said. "It is expensive to send technicians one by one off island for IT training or certification but if we coordinate as a group what specific training we need, we leverage the resources but also maximize the dollars spent where the benefit is shared with all IT technicians regardless of what agency they work for."
The ITMC was also created to help IT leaders work together on policies, standards, legislative issues as well as streamlining IT procurement of services and goods, she said.
"I viewed the ITMC as also a body that would have sub-groups like the Enterprise Architecture group to address communications infrastructure problems; a Policy & Legislation group; a Mobile Apps & E-Government group; an Information Sharing/Security group and finally I envisioned the ITMC to work with Procurement to serve as an SEB body to review IT specific proposals," she said.
“Another sub-group I was looking forward to creating was some sort of HR group to work with HR to address IT classifications, position description, standardization of technician titles, certification and education requirements for hiring IT personnel and so forth,” she added.
According to the governor, through the ITD and the chief information officer, ITMC "shall have the ability to establish funds for cost-sharing and collaboration of projects."