Lolo: “We have a very open door policy in terms of the media”
One issue raised directly by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, during last week’s news conference called by the Governor’s Office, deals with the news media and coincides with the administration’s transparency and accountability policies, promised during last year’s gubernatorial race.
“We have a very open door policy in terms of the media,” said Lolo, who added that reporters are welcome to cover various events and other matters. Since the new administration came into office, the news media has been invited to attend cabinet meetings — a first in the territory, Samoa News understands.
Lolo also noted that he “assumes” that the level for news media to deal with each department is the “director” and no one else, when seeking an official statement.
“I have given the directors the privilege to respond to the news media on any questions and that would be the official position of this administration,” the governor said and noted that “I don’t expect you” to ask anyone else below the level of a director, because the answer would not represent the policies of the administration.
He told reporters that wherever the news media gets its source or sources, such information is not considered “official” from the administration, unless it comes from the director of the department or agency involved.
“If you can’t get [answers] from the director, then I will suggest it to the director,” he said and pointed out that there has been some information that has been leaked to the media. However, he says the director should be given the opportunity to comment on behalf of the administration.
“...directors are well versed in our principles and philosophies,” Lolo said. “But as far as detailing what they (the directors) are doing they will be able to control their own departments and run their own departments.”
An important upcoming issue for the Lolo administration is the preparation and submission of the new fiscal year 2014 budget, which begins Oct. 1, 2013. In the past years, the budget call letter usually goes out in late May or early June from the ASG Office of Budget and Planning advising ASG entities of budget ceiling and the reason for its.
The call would also reveal any new funding sources, as well as any financial constraints faced by the administration heading forward. For the Lolo Administration they have a difficult task at this point with the federal sequestration in place and financial constraints for local revenues.
During the news conference, the governor was asked if the administration has set a budget ceiling for each department for FY 2014. Lolo replied, “not yet” and noted that “we’re trying to gather more information so that we can at least understand the trend” of budget spending for the fiscal year.
Regarding sequestration update, he said that ASG is affected and departments are solving their own issues regarding the sequestration and they have taken measures to control the reduction they were given. However, he said the sequestration does not affect federal grants for ASG.
On another budget matter, Lolo was asked if he still plans to submit to the Fono a preliminary budget of the next fiscal year 2015, which is a promise he made to lawmakers during his address in January.
Lolo responded that he does plan to do so, adding that this is very important for proposed projects to be funded with federal Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) money. He went on to say that there is a change in the budget process in the U.S. Congress where “we’re not involved” in providing testimonies on federal budget proposals — which was done years ago.
“But what we would like to do is to submit not only CIP, but new grants to the Fono, so lawmakers will know what’s in those budget figures,” he said. “Just before we send CIP and new grants to Washington, I want to make sure the Fono is aware of what’s going on.”
Samoa News had received a few inquiries as to whether or not the new administration will invest in the Community Bank of Amerika Samoa (IO), which is made up of a group of local investors moving to set up a locally owned bank in the territory early next year.
As a funding source cited by the inquiries is the ASG Employees Retirement Fund, which has been used by the past administration as a funding source. The most recent one is the $20 million loan to fund various capital improvement projects.
Lolo says there is no financial commitment by the government for the new bank and such an issue for investment will require the involvement of himself and the Fono. He also said that as far as he knows there hasn’t been any request for any type of assistance from the government on this matter.
The governor went on to make it clear that he has “pledged” his support to the new bank.