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Coordinator hired for ASG's High Risk Task Force

Hoping to remove American Samoa as a “high risk” designee imposed by the federal government, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has recruited from off-island a coordinator for the ASG High Risk Task Force and appointed his legal counsel, Steve Watson, as chairman of the group.


Late last month the governor issued a memo establishing the High Risk Elimination Task Force, whose members are Education Department director Salu Hunkin-Finau, Treasurer Dr. Falema’o ‘Phil’ M. Pili, Human Resources director Le’i Sonny Thompson, Chief Procurement Officer Ti’atalaga John Kruse and Budget Office director Catherine Aigamaua-Saelua.


“To improve our financial integrity with federal grantor agencies, it is imperative that we demonstrate our commitment to total adherence to all grants terms and conditions,” Lolo said.


However, last week he issued a new memorandum, which now establishes the “High Risk Task Force”, expands its members to including Watson (who is also appointed chairman), the Health Department and the Office of Property Management.


“This year marks 10 years since the American Samoa Government was first designated ‘high risk’ by certain of its federal grantor agencies,” Lolo wrote in memo last week. “Efforts to remediate the government’s high risk status have been sporadic over the years since, notably marked by a lack of continuous focus by the departments and agencies involved.”


According to the memo, each task force member is responsible for their department or office’s remediation efforts under the Corrective Action Plan (CAP), as amended from time to time. (The CAP is required by the federal government to be filed within a certain timeframe as part of conditions to lift the high-risk status.)




Lolo says James Joseph Casey is the task force coordinator and brings to his role “several years of experience in the remediation of federal grantor-designated high risk agencies including” agencies in the federal court receivership as a result of continuous and aggravated non-compliance.


Media reports from Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas show that Casey was appointed by the federal court there to handle receivership for a health agency.


In his memo, Lolo outlined the many duties for Casey, whose responsibilities include coordinating as needed with relevant agencies to ensure the ongoing compilation of applicable data that must be regularly input to the CAP.


Additionally, he is to gather applicable data from relevant agencies — and as needed — orchestrate the generation of relevant documentation and collate the same for the regular production of timely reports; review and if necessary modify and thereafter oversee strict adherence to Procurement Office policies and procedures (P&Ps) by relevant agencies ensuring there is sufficient supporting documentation for all goods and services acquired utilizing federal funds and seeing to it that agency efforts to bypass procurement P&Ps do not occur.


Casey’s other duties are:


•            Work with Treasury to reconcile grant monies expended and implement control measures to both detect and prevent improper postings, expenditures for disallowed costs, and expenditures that exceed the underlying budget.


•            Provide training, where indicated, to respective line agency staff regarding allowable expenditures of grant monies to keep them abreast of the progress being made.


•            Draft any and all necessary additional policies and procedures including providing training around their implementation, to realize compliance with the CAP and to embed best practices going forward.


Lolo has also required Casey to interface as necessary with both the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Interior in order to keep them abreast of the progress being made.  (DOI and USDOE are major federal grantors for ASG).


Lolo ordered that “as the government’s high risk designation affects all of government and many agency functions overlap with other agencies, all departments, agencies and offices... cooperate with and assist the High Risk Task Force and the... Coordinator in their efforts.”