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Much work remains to remove high risk status, says Lolo

DOE no longer designated high risk
reporters@samoanews.com

While the ASG High Risk Task Force has made progress in seeking to remove American Samoa’s  “high risk” status with the U.S. Department of Education, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga says a lot more work needs to be done before the designation is lifted by the federal agency.
 
The task force, chaired by the governor’s legal counsel, Steven Watson, received on Jan. 31 this year, a formal response from USDOE to the task force’s Oct. 31, 2013 submission updating the ASG Corrective Action Plan, which took effect Sept. 30 last year, according to a news release yesterday morning from the governor’s office.
 
(Philip A. Maestri, Director of Risk Management Service of USDOE and his team were in the territory last summer for a follow up visit, and to review progress made by ASG in lifting the high risk status.)
 
Watson along with High Risk Coordinator Jerome Ierome briefed the governor and his team on the outcome on Wednesday and noted of the 20 findings under review, five were closed by the USDOE team, progress was noted on seven other findings, while one new finding was added.
 
The good news was that Department of Health findings relative to USDOE funding “were cleared and is no longer one of the designated high risk [ASG] agencies,” the statement says.
 
“This is a really positive outcome,” Watson said and claimed since the Lolo Administration took office “we have made more progress in addressing our high risk status than in the 11 years since the original high risk designation was made.’
 
While the governor expressed his appreciation to the task force and their staff, who will meet formally next week to continue their work, Lolo is quoted in a media statement, saying that while “we are making real progress... there remains a lot of work still to be done before we can put this behind us.”
 
“Keep your focus on the task at hand and keep up the momentum,” the governor said.
 
At Wednesday’s meeting, it was noted ASDOE has only one remaining high risk finding, Procurement Office has two, but the Treasury Department still has a number of items outstanding.
 
The news release didn’t provide any other details of items to be addressed, but said several of these items are expected to be cleared at the Mar. 31, 2014 report as the ASG ‘IFAS’ financial computer system upgrade comes on line and other process improvements are implemented.
 
In his address to the Fono last month, Lolo said the high risk task force is working to prevent the replication of practices in violation of federal grantor policies and procedures.
 
BACKGROUND
 
Samoa News should point out in past years, the USDOE would issue an official letter to the governor and the ASDOE director providing the latest status of ASG’s work to lift the high risk status and this would include what more needs to be done.
 
In his letter last June to the governor, Maestri says ASG continues to demonstrate deficiencies in the areas of documentation, procurement, property management (inventories), reconciliation of financial data and generally, the development and implementation of effective internal controls and reliable financial and accounting systems to ensure accountability for Federal funds.
 
Additionally, ASG “has not to date demonstrated sufficient progress in implementing corrective actions” outlined in both the comprehensive High Risk Corrective Action Plan (CAP) and Payroll Corrective Action Plan (PCAP) to correct its systemic control and fiscal deficiencies.
 
Maestri did say USDOE “is pleased with ASG’s expression of a renewed sense of urgency in addressing the fiscal and administrative issues” concerning its USDOE grants, with the establishment of the task force as well as the appointment of a high risk coordinator to facilitate collaboration amongst the ASG departments and agencies responsible for addressing these issues.



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