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Deadline looms for ASPA budget; Hearing Monday

The Senate and House are scheduled to meet Monday morning to discuss an administration proposal seeking $86.59 million to continue the fiscal year 2013 funding for the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA), whose current budget expires at the end of this month. ASPA, whose previous chief executive officer, Andra Samoa and board maintained that it’s ASPA’s board of directors who give the final approval for its annual budget, had proposed $115.45 for FY 2013 but the Fono approved only the first four months of the fiscal year. The bill comes amid concerns raised Thursday by Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeao, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee that the deadline is near for the current approved ASPA budget and there is a need for both the Fono and the governor to address this matter as soon as possible. Laolagi suggested that the Fono leaders send an official communication to the executive branch and ASPA that the end of January is near and that the Fono needs to review and come up with a final decision covering the rest of FY 2013. Laolagi’s request came 24-hours after Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono raised the same issue about ASPA during Wednesday’s session. Soliai sought additional information from Senate leaders so that the new senators for the current session have a better understanding of the ASPA fiasco.Gaoteote explained that the ASPA approved budget is only for the first four months of FY 2013 and the authority is to return later this month for their final budget review. He also stated that during a recent meeting with Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, it was made clear to the governor of the Fono’s position: ASPA is an entity of the government and therefore is part of the government and not on their own, as claimed by the previous ASPA board and officials. BUDGET BILLA footnote in the budget bill states that for ASPA’s FY 2013, the “House/Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees unanimously approved a 4 month budget”. ASPA officials were to return this month to iron out the final details of a budget to cover the rest of the fiscal year. Lawmakers last year were not satisfied with ASPA testimony given during budget hearings about the fee hikes that went into effect Oct. 1 last year, as well as information about money earned by the fuel division. Friday, the administration bill seeking funds to cover the rest of FY 2013 was introduced in both the Senate and House and assigned to the appropriate budget committees for review. Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie and House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale thereafter announced in their respective sessions that both Chambers will convene at 7:30 a.m. Monday to discuss the ASPA budget for the rest of FY 2013. Of the total $86.59 million in the budget bill, $43.93 million goes to the electric division; $7.51 million to water division; $5.77 million for wastewater division; $3.55 million for Solid waste (trash collection) division; and $25.81 million for fuel marketing division. The largest budget item is $53.29 million in the materials/supplies category followed by $10.59 million in contract services, however details of these expenditures were not included in the budget bill, but are expected to be submitted separately during the Fono review. Funding sources come from utility rate revenues, fees, charges and grant funds identified for appropriation in ASPA’s proposed annual budget for FY 2013, according to language of the bill.