Governor to meet with semi autonomous agencies to discuss FY19 budgets
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has requested that budget proposals for the new fiscal year 2019 for ASG semi autonomous agencies be discussed with him this week.
Authorities, such as American Samoa Power Authority, American Samoa Community College and the American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority, are all governed by boards of directors and in past years their respective boards worked with management for proposed budgets for each fiscal year.
Their budget plans are then submitted to the governor for inclusion in the ASG annual budget submission to the Fono.
At last Thursday’s cabinet meeting, during the FY 2019 budget discussion, Lolo noted that for the authorities, such as ASCC, ASTCA and ASPA, he “would like to sit down” with these entities and “go through your budget.”
“I know we haven’t really done that in the last few years, but these are the serious years of this administration and we want to make sure that we do the budget right before we leave this administration,” he explained, adding that he would like a meeting this week with these authorities, “so we can review [your] budgets to make sure that we include everything that you need in your operation.”
“I know we struggle to make ends meet, but we’ll do our best to make sure that we help out in preparing your budget for the [new] fiscal year,” he said.
Towards the end of the cabinet meeting, representatives of the authorities were given a chance — like at every cabinet meeting — to provide an update summary of their latest work, with ASPA’s power chief, Wallon Young, the first to speak, saying that he currently has acting responsibilities for executive director Utu Abe Malae, who is on medical leave.
(Samoa News notes that ASPA former managing director Paul Young had in the past represented ASPA at cabinet meetings when Utu was off island.)
“Right now we’re trying to stabilize things at ASPA,” said Wallon Young, who assured the governor and ASG that “the operations part of ASPA will be okay.”
However, it’s “just the financial challenges [that] are still there. The cost cutting measures are in place. Paul Young left us with a lot of good controls and we intend to maintain them,” he pointed out.
“All in all, the biggest challenge for ASPA going forward is the financial side,” he explained. “We know that rates are a sensitive issue. As most of you may know already, we held back — delayed — increases in water and waste water rates — two times already. We still have challenges ahead of us.”
Lolo responded that he has been briefed on Utu’s condition by the ASPA board chairman, Fonoti Perelini. The governor also said that he has been meeting with the chairman a couple of times and he would like to sit down with the board, along with Wallon Young at the earliest time this week, to “go through on how we can help ASPA.”
“I know there are quite a few challenges that we need to address, but there’s nothing new there. It’s just a matter of us addressing those issues and finding ways to help ASPA in anyway we can,” the governor said.
ASCC president, Dr. Rosevonne M. Pato is attending a conference off island and the college was represented by Dr. Lina Scanlan, who said that ASCC “is moving forward with all its efforts to give our students, our territory, high quality education.”
However, the college has “financial challenges” as well but “we are very grateful” to the governor, Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga, and ASG Treasurer Uelinitone Tonumaipe’a “for providing us with our subsidy payments and enabling us to move forward during our dry months.”
Lolo responded to the financial challenges at ASCC informing Scanlan that both sides will sit down this week so “we can go through your budget and see what we can do.”
ASTCA’s acting chief executive officer Falaovaoto Sualevai informed the meeting that, “we still struggle financially, but we’re making every effort to make ends meet.” She thanked Lolo and Lemanu as well as Tonumaipe’a “for some of the payments we needed” — but she didn’t elaborate further on the payments.
Samoa News notes that ASTCA and ASPA do not get annual ASG subsidies, but depend on rate paying customers for their yearly revenues for operations.
OTHER FY 2019 BUDET ISSUES
ASG Office of Budget and Planning director Catherine Saelua informed the cabinet meeting that all ASG entities have submitted their proposed final budgets, which are now being reviewed and finalized.
FY 2019 budget ceiling threshold is the same as the current fiscal year, and Saelua asked executive branch agencies, “to be mindful” of the fact “that the [budget] ceilings are based on meetings between the Treasury and all those revenue agencies projecting for the FY 2019 revenues, which the budget is based upon.”
For executive branch agencies, that went above the ceiling, “we are in the process of negotiations” with those agencies, she said, adding that once the budget is finalized, following a review and approval of the governor, the budget books are then sent to the ASG Print Shop to be published and are expected to be ready when the Fono reconvenes on Aug. 6.
Saelua also thanked all executive branch agencies for their cooperation in spending for FY 2018, saying that the spending freeze imposed by the governor’s order in March and April following Tropical Storm Gita in February this year “helped the finances for our budgets versus expenditures.”
“I’m pretty sure all agencies for FY 2018 will come out in the black,” she said, noting that the exemption during Gita included personnel costs.
For Executive Branch entities, Lolo told those directors to make sure that “any change” between FY 2018 and FY 2019 budget ceilings are submitted for review before the budget is approved.
“So if you have critical issues, that you need to address — such as matching funds in terms of agencies and departments that require matching — make sure you clarify those things to us so we can help… include those matching funds in FY 2019,” the governor said.