ASG revenue collection better in 2013 says Lolo
While the government appears to be doing well in revenue collection, Gov. Lolo M. Moliga said there is more than $20 million in outstanding federal grant reimbursements that need to be collected to help with the government’s finances.
Lolo made the revelation during his State of the Territory Address on Monday at a joint session of the Fono to open the 3rd Regular Session. He also said there is other federal money— such as the $10 million in federal assistance to help local businesses — that the administration is awaiting for approval.
According to the governor, the final figures for ASG’s financial status at the end of the first quarter of fiscal year 2014 (which ended on Dec. 1, 2013), are not yet available; but figures at the end of November revealed all agencies were staying within first quarter budget allocations minus 10% set aside for financial emergencies.
He said the 10% set aside for each quarter was implemented last year and this policy was proven effective in FY 2013, which allowed ASG to end the fiscal year “with a budget surplus”.
Lolo shared with lawmakers that tax revenue collections are doing well, and claimed for example, in December 2013, Treasury collected $11.8 million compared to around $5 million in December 2012.
While revenue collection is a difficult task, the governor said, through the diligent efforts of the Treasury Department, it will be done.
(However, some lawmakers yesterday questioned whether ASG had collected $11 million and plan to seek details from the administration.)
Lolo said the most difficult issue faced by the government is getting federal reimbursements of local monies which are first spent, then ASG applies for reimbursement. He says between 2009 and 2012 ASG was unable to get over $30 million in federal reimbursements.
“Why? We are not doing our job in getting reimbursements,” he said, adding that a contract specialist is now on board who will focus his attention on collecting $32 million of the outstanding grant reimbursements.
Lolo also said that another problem faced by Treasury Department is that some of these uncollected reimbursements are for “closed programs” making it difficult to get the reimbursement from the federal grantor.
As part of his Samoan speech to the Fono, the governor said as of early this month, the uncollected reimbursement amount is now just over $20.1 million.
During yesterday’s Senate session, Sen. Magalei Logovi’i told senators he was ASG Treasurer between 2009 and 2012 and the uncollected reimbursements mentioned by the governor were not from his tenure.
He said these particular reimbursements, which are around $26 million, were prior to 2009, and they dealt with federal funds awarded to TEMCO, when it was managed by the late Fa’amausili Pola.
He said if what the governor claims is correct on the reimbursements, then he wants to see specific details and requested the Senate Budget Committee to look into this matter.
Lolo also reported there is other money out there for American Samoa, specifically the $1.2 million that was illegally transferred out of one of the ASG accounts and frozen in a bank in Vietnam. He said the Attorney General’s Office and Congressman Faleomavaega Eni are working on getting this money returned to ASG.
Then there is the unused $10 million allocated to American Samoa under the federal State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), which will be very useful and important to the development of small businesses in the territory, he said, adding ASG is awaiting approval of its new application.
Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele told Samoa News last November American Samoa was sending a new application and plan to the U.S. Treasury Department for approval.
The territory’s new application and plan followed a meeting held Oct. 31 in Washington D.C. between U.S. Treasury official David Rixter, who is the Outreach Manager for the SSBCI program and DOC director Lafaele.
The U.S. Treasury Department had approved $10.4 million for American Samoa under the SSBCI which was created under the federal Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 in response to concerns that small businesses have been unable to access capital that would allow them to create jobs.
The program supplies cash collateral accounts to lending institutions to enhance collateral coverage of individual loans, but officials of the two banks testified in the Fono last year of their reluctance to participate in the program, due to among other things, their concern that the SSBCI provides only up to 50% of the cash collateral.
According to the federal government, the SSBCI is a one-time program of limited duration and the authorities and duties of the Secretary of Treasury to implement and administer the program terminate on September 27, 2017.