SENATE AUTHORIZES INCREASE IN BUDGET TRANSFER AMOUNTS
An administration bill seeking to increase amount of funds the Budget and Planning Office director may transfer between accounts of a department or office was approved Wednesday by the Senate and now goes to the House, where the House has its own version pending in committee.
Current laws allow budget managers of departments to move account amounts up to $5,000 or 15% whichever is lesser, from one account to another; and also permit the Budget Office director to move amounts up to $25,000 or 30% of the account.
The current law allows the Budget Director to transfer up to $25,000 without Fono approval.
Under the new bill, budget managers would be permitted to move amounts up to $10,000 and the Budget Office director to move up to $100,000. Fono approval will be required if the funds shifted are over $100,000.
Testifying on the bill before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee early this week was Budget and Planning office director Catherine Saelua, who explained transfers of funds are within the accounts of a department or office, for example, transferring funds from travel to materials and supplies. She also said that a director of any particular agency or department makes the request to her, who then approves or disapproves such a request.
She said the current $25,000 is the “cap” or ceiling to be transferred per quarter and if approved by the Fono, then the cap, based on the bill, is $100,000.
Sen. Nua Saoluaga noted this is a drastic increase in the transfer amount sought by the administration and he wondered why the Executive Branch didn’t seek an increase up to $50,000 or $60,000 instead of $100,000.
Nua said the annual ASG budget is confirmed by the Fono and signed into law by the governor for the entire fiscal year based on testimonies and evidence presented during budget hearings. He asked if there have been any incidents that prompted the administration to request an increase in the transfer amount.
Saelua said there have been incidents, for example, employees who retired or resigned to move off island, but their annual and sick leave needs to be paid out. She says these are not included in the annual budget submission because no one knew in advance about such action.
According to the budget director, big departments such as Public Works and Education have staff who — all of a sudden— opt to retire or resign.
She also said when it comes to fixed costs — such as electricity and salary — “we are very careful to make sure that there is money in the budget to cover them.”
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga informed the Fono that increasing the authorized budget transfer amount will facilitate more efficient allocation of resources within the Budget Office and contribute to more accurate and timely budget reporting.
FONO ENDORSES MEASURE SUPPORTING FALEOMAVAEGA
Both the Senate and House last week endorsed a House Concurrent Resolution supporting Congressman Faleomavaega Eni’s strong opposition to any changes made to the Buy American provision on canned tuna products, which comes under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The resolution promulgates its support of American Samoa’s “opposition against the attempt to dilute any provision of the 100% Buy American Act” as eloquently made public by Faleomavaega and fully supported by Lolo.
Copies of the resolution are to be sent to Faleomavaega, other members of Congress, the governor and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, “requesting her support to intercede on behalf of American Samoa.” (See Samoa News edition on Jan. 31 for more details of the resolution).
CALL FOR MORE RESTROOMS AT SUIGAULA O LE ATUVASA — UTULEI BEACH
Senators on Wednesday expedited passage of a Senate Resolution requesting the governor to instruct the Parks and Recreation Department director to construct an additional restroom at Su’igalula o le Atuvasa park at Utulei Beach for the benefit of the community.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Faumuina Tagisiaali’i, was introduced Wednesday and was immediately endorsed thereafter.
The non-binding resolution noted that every year there are multiple government, public and private events at the beach park, but there is only one public restroom at Utulei Beach and it is a distance to walk from the Samoan fales at Suigaula o le Atuvasa.
According to the resolution, funding for this project should be made possible by any available means, including the Small Village Fund or the Land and Water Conservation Grant.