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In limbo: TOFR raises concerns over status

The Territorial Office of Fiscal Reform (TOFR) has raised concerns over its status as a government entity, especially since the executive order which created TOFR has since expired while it continues to work under the Treasury Department, according to TOFR’s Second Quarter Performance Report for FY 2013.


Unlike previous performance reports, which came with a cover letter showing who submitted the report, TOFR’s 2nd quarter report does not have a cover letter. However, Samoa News should point out that Salu Tuigamala is the acting director for this office, which has been in existence since 2000.


Under Program Impediments, the report states that since the executive order for TOFR expired in October 2012, “the office has felt a sense of floating up in the air — Not sure if we should continue working under the Treasury Department or should the office continue to be under the Governor’s Office.”


The report says, “This has quietly made it uncomfortable for staff members to say where they work and what they do.”


“But, we continue to push on and do as we are told to keep our mandate of managing the disaster projects” for the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the Capital Improvement Projects for the U.S. Department of Interior; Airport grants from the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the American Samoa Petroleum Cooperative and the Office of Petroleum Management, it says.


Responding to Samoa News questions, the governor’s executive assistant, Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, says he was not aware the Executive Order for TOFR had expired in October of last year.


"Hence I will raise the issue with our Chief Legal Counsel to determine what needs to be done, as the Governor has not made a decision on TOFR, except that it remains under the Governor's Office for now," he said, adding, “It is probable that the enabling Executive Order will be extended if it has expired.”


In 2007, the Senate approved a resolution calling on then Gov. Togiola Tulafono to dismantle TOFR, saying that the agency’s purpose no longer existed. TOFR was first established in 2000 by executive order and a 2004 amended executive order extended TOFR’s existence to October 2011, according to the resolution.


Samoa News was unable to find any confirmation of another executive order being issued, which would have extended TOFR to last October.


The only records in Samoa News archives show that Dr. Falema’o ‘Phil’ M. Pili (the current ASG Treasurer) was appointed by Togiola in Oct. 2011 to head TOFR.


When created in 2000, TOFR’s main priority was to establish fiscal reforms for ASG to meet a Congressional mandate which allowed the government to receive an $18.6 million loan from the U.S. government. In exchange for the loan, American Samoa gave up its rights to the national master tobacco settlement.


Four years later additional responsibilities were added to TOFR and these included assisting the Treasury in preparing timely audited financial statements and to review and audit all ASG’s major revenue streams. TOFR also was given the task of overseeing CIP funds, FAA grants for the airport and FEMA disaster funds.


And with the American Samoa Economic Stimulus and Recovery Office (ASESRO) no longer in existence due to lack of funding, all work handled formerly by ASESRO pertaining to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for the territory is now managed by TOFR.


The largest budget item ($103.5 million) for TOFR in FY 2013 under the Contractual Service budget category is for FEMA funded expenditures — mainly the projects pending from the 2009 tsunami.


Two lawmakers who have seen the report say they plan to raise the issue of TOFR'S status when lawmakers return in July, especially later in August when the FY 2014 budget is discussed.