Just so there’s no confusion, the senate is “not confused”
Reiterating their lack of confusion, Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie fired off a letter to officially inform Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga about the $4.3 million reprogramming bill, saying the Senate in January expects to receive from the administration the financial statements for fiscal year 2013 and the financial report for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014 — which began Oct. 1, 2013.
Gaoteote’s letter yesterday to the governor outlined the Senate’s many concerns with the reprogramming bill tabled in committee during the special session that ended yesterday.
In the letter, Gaoteote applauded the governor’s recognition of the budget limits regarding reprogramming and the anti-deficiency act, saying these are areas of the law that have been disregarded in the recent past. (The governor had mentioned these issues in his letter received by the Fono on Monday requesting time to address lawmakers on the reprogramming bill.)
Gaoteote said he hopes the governor will continue to “observe and conform to these statutes in the future for the sake of good governance, transparency and accountability.”
As for the reprogramming bill, Gaoteote first pointed out “the Fono is not ‘confused’ regarding this measure, but the Senate does have serious concerns and reservations about the bill and will need a full financial accounting of ASG’s condition before it proceeds on the bill which should be presented in January as a re-appropriation of surplus funds, if such funds are truly available.”
One concern, raised by Gaoteote is that the bill was presented only a few days before the end of FY 2013, without a complete financial report. Gaoteote pointed out that under the Budget Act, “all surplus funds lapse and are returned to the general fund for re-appropriation.”
“Our concerns include the fact that ASG started FY 2013 with a $10 million General Fund deficit,” he wrote. “We are very interested to know if, or how, this deficit was covered. Additionally, we want to know the financial status of ASG as of the close of FY 2013.”
Gaoteote also stated it is the Senate’s understanding that ASG has several outstanding obligations and they require an accounting of these obligations, which for example include court judgments and the ASPA accounts payable.
Under the reprogramming bill, money is being reprogrammed from the EOB-ASPA account and Gaoteote said the Senate wants to be assured that ASG is current on its ASPA debt.
“Another serious concern we have is reprogramming of $550,000 which was to go to Progressive Insurance as a partial payment” on a court judgment against ASG, said Gaoteote, who added the Senate is aware of the Oct. 2 court order directing the ASG Treasury to pay this money approved by the Fono.
He said these funds were earmarked in the FY 2013 supplemental in April. “In light of this [supplemental] law, how can these funds now be reprogrammed?” he asked.
Important to the Senate on this reprogramming bill is to get testimony from the Treasurer who was a no-show at last Friday’s hearing “intended to obtain answers to these and several other questions we have about this bill,” said Gaoteote, adding the governor apparently placed great importance on this bill included in the special session but “the key witness failed to appear, frustrating the intent of the Senate to do its job.”
As to the governor’s request to address the Fono on this bill, Gaoteote said, “we do not believe that will be necessary.”
“The senators have a firm grasp and understanding of the bill. I assure you they are not confused, but seriously concerned,” he said and noted this bill is now tabled in the Senate.
“We expect to see FY 2013 financial statements and a FY 2014 first quarter report in January,” he wrote, and noted if the governor so desires, to please resubmit this measure in the form of a re-appropriation “and we will take it up again in January.”
In closing the governor was informed the special session ended yesterday after addressing the items of the special session agenda.
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