Cabinet told no leave, no travel — stay on island for budget hearings!

Cabinet members have been informed that there is no more travel and/or leave from  now until the end of the upcoming fiscal year 2018 budget hearings, according to a memo from the Governor's Chief of Staff, Fiu J. Saelua to all cabinet directors. 

The Aug. 1 memo first mentions a cabinet meeting taking place on Aug. 10 at the Department of Agriculture Conference room. “Only directors and acting directors including presidents and executive directors” of ASG authorities and entities “are to attend,” the memo says.

It further states: “This memo also serves as notification that there shall be no more travel and/or leave taken by cabinet members from now until the end of the upcoming budget hearings.” Fiu thanked cabinet members for their usual support and cooperation.

The Fono is currently on their mid-session four-week recess and will reconvene on Aug. 21st. Their priority at the time will be the review, debate, and approval of the FY 2018 budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1, 2017

Lawmakers took the mid-session recess to await the Administration’s submission of the annual fiscal budget, in which the ceiling is set at 90% of the approved FY 2017 budget — for local revenues.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has stressed in the past the need for cabinet directors to remain on island during budget hearings, as the Fono will not accept anyone, even a deputy director, to testify. Only the agency director, head of an ASG entity, or the executive director is acceptable.

But there have been times when the Fono had to reschedule a department or office’s budget hearing because the director was off island, and this has made lawmakers very unhappy.

Upon receiving the budget, the Fono will start scheduling budget hearings with the official letter and schedule of hearing dates then sent to the Governor’s Office. The letter always states that the Fono budget committees will only accept testimony from the director of the agency and no one else.

The Fono would also request profit and loss statements from authorities but in the past years, some of those reports are not submitted, and that has angered committee members who want to know specific revenue details from the previous fiscal year.

What’s unconfirmed for this year, is whether the Fono will hold a joint committee budget hearing and if it's jointly, where is it going to be held, because the Senate sessions and hearings are at the Samoan Guest Fale at the Fono compound, while the House is currently utilizing the north wing of the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium (fale laumei).

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