Source of $100K donation to Manu Samoa revealed at budget hearing
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — So how did Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga fund the $100,000 for ASG’s donation to the Manu Samoa rugby team during their fundraising event held at Utulei beach in July this year? The answer was made clear and confirmed yesterday during the Fono Joint Budget hearing for the Governor’s Special Program budget proposal of $23 million for FY 2020.
Sen. Fonoti T. Aufata said during the hearing that she is trying to locate under the Special Program, the $100,000 the governor gave to the rugby team from Samoa.
Sen. Magalei Logovi’i, co-chair of the joint budget committee, asked the governor’s Chief of Staff, Fiu Johnny Saelua - one of the three witnesses from the Governor’s Office - to please provide a response.
“Did that [money] come from the Governor’s Contingency Fund?,” Magalei asked, to which Fiu said yes. Magalei explained that $300,000 is allocated to the Contingency Fund and it’s up to the governor how the money is spent. “Is that right?” Magalei asked, to which Fiu again responded yes.
Fonoti quickly chimed in, “That money belongs to the government and the people” of American Samoa. That money, does not belong to just one person, said the Tualauta senator, who reiterated that the fund belongs to the community as a whole.
She cautioned against misusing money, and referred to the Bible verse, that money is the root of all evil. Therefore, no one should be playing with these funds, she said.
The approved FY 2019 budget under the Special Program allocates $300,000 for the Governor’s Contingency Fund, and the same amount is proposed in FY 2020.
“Attempting to anticipate activities that would require financial assistance outside of planned expenditures approved by the Legislature, is an exercise in futility,” according to the Contingency Fund description in the budget book. “Unexpected events necessitate earmarking funds to be available to the Chief Executive to address them.”
Other issues that came up during the hearing dealt with Special Programs, including funds to help with the construction of the new museum. Magalei noted that during the opening event, the governor announced that $800,000 from the Special Programs account went towards this project. Magalei sought an explanation, but made clear he is not against that particular project.
ASG Budget Office director Catherine Saelua explained that $500,000 was allocated in FY 2018 and $300,000 under FY 2019 amounting to $800,000. The committee requested a financial report of said project.
There was also a question regrading the actual earmarked allocation in FY 2020 for general fund subsidies to the LBJ Medical Center - which is proposing $4 million in its budget - and the American Samoa Community Community - which is proposing $3.9 million in its budget.
Fiu explained that under the Special Programs, it’s $1 million for ASCC and $2 million for LBJ.