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Fono advises LBJ to follow protocol with budget changes

Reschedules LBJ & final budget review to tomorrow
fili@samoanews.com

The Fono Joint Committee on Budget and Appropriations has rescheduled to tomorrow morning their review of the LBJ Medical Center’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal, after the committee decided not to review the hospital’s budget on Monday.
 
Because of the LBJ reschedule, the joint committee is now looking at tomorrow afternoon to debate the final language of the budget for FY 2014, which starts Oct. 1, 2013.
 
When the administration submitted the final budget for the new fiscal year, it included LBJ’s proposed budget of $52.57 million but without any specific details. Those details were then requested by the Fono and received last week.
 
However, when the LBJ board and officials appeared Monday afternoon for their budget hearing, Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman Laolagi F.S. Vaeao revealed that the hospital had presented a newly revised budget total of $57.93 million. There were statements made by board member Velega Savali Jr. and interim board chair Mase Akapo about the budget, followed by comments from lawmakers.
 
It was revealed by LBJ that their chief financial officer had suffered a broken leg and was unable to attend the hearing.
 
In the end, committee members were in agreement that the final budget submission document, signed by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, was the official one that will be honored by the Fono and not any revised document that has not gone through the governor’s office. 
 
Late Monday afternoon, Laolagi, along with House Budget and Appropriations Committee Rep. Timusa Tini Lam Yuen wrote a joint letter to hospital CEO Joe Davis-Fleming that the new hearing date for the hospital would be 9:30a.m., Thursday morning.
 
The letter states that adjustments by LBJ in its revised budget proposal reflect new funding sources, changing the final total budget to $57.93 million — which is different than the $52.57 million submitted by the administration.
 
“Albeit we do not oppose the changes you have requested, there is a proper protocol that we adhere to when the changes are requested from departments or authorities,” says the letter, which further states the final FY 2014 budget was transmitted by the Lolo administration “and any requests for amendments should also come directly from the... governor’s office.”
 
The letter states this is not the first time that ASG departments and agencies have attempted to make changes to their budget requests during hearings, while the Fono has always held that these requests must come from the governor.
 
In the past, such adjustments have been left out of budget hearings and later transmitted to the Fono by way of a supplemental bill to reflect any new sources of funding that would change total fiscal budgets, the letter says.
 
In closing, the letter states the Fono will review the LBJ budget transmitted by the governor’s office.
 
At the start of yesterday’s budget hearings, the letter was distributed to lawmakers and Laolagi pointed out that the joint budget hearing for LBJ will resume tomorrow morning focusing on the details of the $52.57 million budget submitted by the governor’s office.
 
He also said if all goes as planned, at 1p.m. tomorrow, the joint committee will convene to begin debate of the final language of the budget, with the plan that the budget bill for each chamber goes through second reading on Friday followed by a third and final reading on Saturday.
 
Thereafter both chambers — provided neither the House nor the Senate make any last minute changes to the budget language — will go through the usual protocol of approving each other's versions by next week Wednesday with the final version sent to the governor thereafter.



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