Lolo calls on cabinet members to work with the Fono on budget inquiries
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — With the pending, yet-to-be scheduled fiscal year 2019 budget hearings, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has called on cabinet members to provide for the Fono all requested information, which are important in getting the budget process completed. It is a call he has repeatedly made at this time of the year when the FY budget hearings come to the fore with the Fono — looking to approve a new budget before the start of a new fiscal year, which is Oct. 1st.
The governor’s call was made during last Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.
Noted, lawmakers usually request specific financial reports on revenue collections and expenditures prior to any budget hearings. And, Lolo told cabinet members that the budget process is “very critical” for the government and also “very critical [is] that we provide the Fono with what they ask for and what they expect of us. I know the budget process is getting to the point where we have to know exactly where we are at any point and at any time.”
According to the governor, ASG Treasurer Uelinitone Tonumaipe’a and Deputy Treasurer, Tina Onosa’i are “working seriously to make sure they provide the most current data so we can better make decisions that will affect our operations.”
The governor addressed the executive branch’s “relationship” with the Fono, noting that “a lot of times, people think the Fono is not doing anything”. However, the governor disagrees with such characterization, saying he can “vouch... for the record”, that “there was never a time in our history, where the Fono and the executive [branch] have not come together to provide better service for our people” than during the current administration and the Fono.
“How do I know that?” he asked and then explained, "We have accomplished a lot of things with the Fono; whether they act or not, the process runs through the Fono. So it may sound different to the perception of our community, but to us leaders, without the Fono, we cannot process what we are doing.
“So I think we should make every effort to make sure that we work with the Fono and recognize and honor at any time when they ask for us to help,” said Lolo and noted for the upcoming FY 2019 budget hearings, cabinet members “make every effort to attend” and only agencies whose director is off island or for good reason unable to attend the hearing, the deputy director will appear.
Lolo stressed that directors have to be at the budget hearings to answer lawmakers' questions and “don’t send anyone else.” Again, it is something Lolo has been adamant about during the years of his administration.
The “importance of our relationship” with the Fono is that “we were able to bring everybody together, to play together and work together with us; and that’s how we accomplish all these things,” the governor emphasized. “And not only that, we have the full support of the US Department of Interior, we have the support of the Fono and I’m pretty sure, we have the support of the community.”
“How do we know that? The last election that we had, the community spoke and they gave us the assurance that they trust and they believe in what we are doing,” Lolo pointed out. “So let's continue doing what we are doing. I know we have all kinds of challenges, but let's find ways to move forward.”
NEW FONO BUILDING GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY
During the cabinet meeting, Lolo inquired about the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fono building, to which Public Works Department director Faleosina Voigt said it's set for 10a.m. Wednesday (tomorrow).
Voigt then revealed that there were two bidders for the construction phase — Fletcher Construction with a bid of $20 million and Paramount Builders that gave the “lowest of $12 million, close to $13 million.”
She didn’t confirm at the time who the contract will be awarded to — which is usually the lowest bid — however she did say they are working on finalizing several issues with the contractor.
Lolo said this is a very important project and he expects all cabinet members to attend the groundbreaking, where “we will lay out the plan for construction of the new building.”
In August of last year, Paramount Builders won the contract to demolish the Fono building, beating out a handful of other local companies. The total award amount was for $135,015.
In Jan. 2018, the construction company was once again seen at the site — this time according to Paramount it was only at the Fagatogo site to help the engineers figure out how to stabilize the ground, to ensure that it is durable enough to carry the weight of a big structure, like the one being proposed for the Fono building.
The company says stabilizing the foundation is the most crucial step before construction begins and the plan is to carry out a "mass excavation" of the site. This means the entire area will be excavated down to a trench of 10-feet in depth, which will be filled with 3/4 gravel.
A Paramount spokesperson told Samoa News at the time that their company is assisting the Fono building's geotechnical engineer, who has already indicated that the existing soil level, down to three feet, consists of "unsuitable material" that needs to be removed.