ASG workforce to increase by 150+ if Supplemental Budget is passed

That’s about 6,700 workers — making gov’t largest employer
fili@samoanews.com

The Lolo Administration’s proposed Basic Budget for the new fiscal year 2018 shows the American Samoa Government’s workforce at over 6,500, which is a slight decrease compared to the approved FY 2017 budget due to career service employees retiring. However, the FY 2018 Supplemental Budget, which is funded by local revenues, is proposing just over 200 positions — upping the number of government workers in 2018 by over 150.

The Supplemental budget is dependent on the passage of new revenue measures currently before the Fono, of which the governor has said, if they are not passed, the Supplemental Budget is a ‘no go’.

In his cover letter to Fono leaders that includes the Basic FY 2018 Budget, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said the total number of positions proposed for the new fiscal year is about 6,555 compared to 6,612 approved in FY 2017.

He said this reflects an overall decrease of about 56 positions in career service, which can be attributed to retirement.

Samoa News notes that the ASG workforce includes semi autonomous agencies such as the American Samoa Power Authority, and the LBJ Medical Center.

Of the total ASG workforce proposed in FY 2018, about 1,565 are contract workers (an increase of 5% from FY 2017) and about 4,990 for career service — a 2% decrease from FY 2017, according to data included in the governor’s letter.

Position distribution by funding source shows about 2,453 funded by local revenue; 2,265 with federal funding; and 1,837 under Enterprise Fund — which is where the semi autonomous agencies are listed and other ASG entities — such as the Airport Division and ASG Housing.

According to the governor, a total of 216 positions are being proposed in the FY 2018 supplemental budget, with a little over 160 being career service and over 50 are on contract. Among the positions in the supplemental are 11 employees for the LBJ Medical Center and the American Samoa Community College.

The Administration is also proposing $500,000 under the Special Programs for the FY 2018 Basic Budget for the Workforce Development Fund program, which the governor explained “offers early retirement incentives to ASG employees eligible for retirement, allowing the availability of these job positions for new workers.”

(This funding allocation is not specifically identified in the FY 2017 budget, according to ASG budget documents for the current fiscal year.)

Lawmakers are expected to question ASG officials on this funding allocation, during the yet to be scheduled budget hearings, which will be set when House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale returns this week from an off island trip.

As part of the Fono’s preparations for budget hearings, Sen. Magalei Logovi’i, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, has requested — through the Senate President’s Office — financial reports from the Administration, including the latest revenue-versus-expenditures report.

Magalei has also requested an ASG personnel report, detailing career service and contract employes from the ASG Department of Human Resources. The request was made during last Thursday’s Senate session, with Magalei saying that his committee would like to have the reports before the start of budget hearings.

BACKGROUND

There have been calls from the private sector to reduce the ASG workforce, instead of raising taxes or proposing new ones. (See Samoa News Aug. 23, 2017 issue for details)

In his cover letter to Fono leaders, Lolo said the message from the federal government “seems to direct” ASG to reduce its size, adding that the same sentiments are harbored and often raised by the business community.

While this is “not an unreasonable expectation”, Lolo said, this “demand is very impractical for American Samoa because existing federal policies have effectively hamstrung and have preempted our ability to grow our economy.”

As a result, the governor has chosen to keep the government as the largest employer on island — beating out the private sector’s leading job provider — StarKist Samoa — with an estimated workforce of 2,000.

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