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Governor Lolo to Fono: “You will have full authority over your budget”

In recognition of the Legislature as a separate branch of government, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga says the Fono “will exercise full authority” of its annual budget, but when all appropriated funds are used up, processing of expenditures will cease until a supplemental budget is approved.


This was the message outlined in Lolo’s letter late Wednesday this week to Fono leaders. The governor pointed out he has made it “a centerpiece” of his administration to establish “arms-length cooperation and collaboration” among the three branches of government “to ensure that we respond quickly and effectively to the demands of our people for quality services.”


“A government that is robust and dedicated to the service of its people is bound to experience differences of opinion but our basic aim remains unaltered,” he wrote. “It manifests true democracy at play.”


Accordingly, recognizing the autonomy of the Legislature, and in accordance with local statute — ASCA 16.0603 — dealing with the Fono’s budget, the governor said the “Legislature will exercise full authority and control, request, approval and disbursement of funds in its budget.”


(ASCA 16.0603 states: “Except as otherwise limited by law, the Legislature shall have full authority and control the request, approval, and disbursement of funds in its budget. The Legislature shall be fully responsible for maintaining proper record-keeping and management over the expenditure of funds.)


Lolo said the Executive Branch will process the checks to cover expenditure documents submitted by the Fono for processing.


For required controls, the governor asked the Legislature to develop and submit to the executive branch the protocols forming the system of internal controls to preempt potential unauthorized expenditures not intended by the legislative leaders.


He noted the budget for the Executive Branch will be loaded by quarters in each fiscal year; therefore the Fono needs to indicate whether the Legislature will comply with this policy.


And when the Legislature “exhausts its approved budget appropriation, processing of requested expenditure documents will cease, unless a supplemental budget appropriation legislation is enacted,” the governor concluded.


The governor’s letter comes at at time when some senators including Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie have raised on the Senate floor that it’s probably time for the Legislature to control its own budget, which is overseen by the Legislative Finance Office.


Senators have also raised the fact the Fono is one of three branches of government and their statement comes amidst a disagreement between the Fono and the governor over the line-item veto which the governor used on a portion of the Fono’s FY 2014 budget.


In their letter to the governor last Friday regarding the line-item veto, the Fono leaders pointed to local law that provides the Legislature with “full authority and control” of the funds in its budget— a budget “which does not require the Fono to provide justification for its object class appropriations as you maintain in your correspondence, and you use as a basis for your line-item veto.”


The governor told the Fono they had increased their budget without justification or explanation after the Fono increased their budget by $985,000 and funded their increase by cutting monies from the budgets of the Governor’s Office and Special Programs, and reallocating the total amount to the the Fono for Materials and Supplies.


(See separate story on the governor’s reply to the Fono’s concerns over the ‘partial’ line- item veto.)