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Senator Galea’i: Reimbursement of grant money should be \lesson learned\

Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli has urged the new administration of Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to fully adhere to provisions for spending of federal grants because failure to do so will result in the territorial government having to make reimbursements to the grantor.


Galeai made the public call during a Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing last Thursday, where the governor’s $5 million supplemental appropriations bill was discussed.


Among appropriations in the bill is an item showing $52,000 to reimburse disallowed grant expenditures for the Vocational Rehabilitation Office and $36,000 for reimbursement of disallowed spending under the AmeriCorps program.


Both programs are funded by federal grants and when questioned by Galeai about these two expenditures — which will be funded with local revenue — ASG Treasurer Dr. Falema’o ‘Phil’ M. Pili says the funding request is necessary to pay back the disallowed expenses.


(There were no follow up questions as to what the disallowed expenses were that ASG must reimburse for the two programs.)


Galeai said these types of reimbursements should be a 'lesson learned' for the new administration — as these problems occurred during the past administration. He says the new government should fully adhere to provisions of how federal grants are spent, because failure to do so means local revenue — which is already stretched thin— will have to be used to pay back the grantor.


He said these problems will then end up coming to the Fono for approval, due to carelessness of ensuring full compliance.


The Vocational Rehabilitation Office is under the jurisdiction of the Governor’s Office but details of the reimbursement remain unclear. For AmeriCorps, this reimbursement first surfaced in January this year when Lolo wrote to Washington D.C. based Corporation for National and Community Services (CNCS), the federal grantor for AmeriCorps, for additional information on the reimbursement.


Lolo also noted that his new administration planned to pay the reimbursement after reading a 2011 audit report, which outlined problems in the administration of AmeriCorps grants. He further wrote he was interested in having the program restored, if possible, and only after all compliance and reimbursement issues were met by ASG.


American Samoa Special Service Commission (ASSSC) was the ASG entity charged with AmeriCorps programs in the territory and due to problems found by the audit, funding for ASSSC was terminated, while its executive director was charged in the federal court in Washington D.C. and is currently serving time in federal prison.




The Senate approved yesterday in final reading its amended version of the Administration’s $5 million. The House approved last Thursday its version of the bill, without amendments and it was introduced in the Senate yesterday.


At this point, it's unclear how the Senate and House will act on each other’s version. The Senate version is expected to be introduced in the House today.


The Senate amendment re-allocates $100,000 to the MV Sili for repairs. The Senate cut $50,000 each from two programs for this new expenditure.


The MV Sili suffered damages to its propellers and rudders while at the Faleasao Wharf last month and it's waiting to be taken up on the slipway at the Ronald Reagan Marine Railway shipyard for repairs.


Shipyard Service Authority board chairman David Robinson says there is currently a longliner on the slipway and the vessel’s owner has asked for extra work to be done, which will take some time.


He also said the shipyard is waiting for parts from the Port Administration. “We’re trying to get the MV Sili up on the slipway as soon as we can, but it's not easy,” he said adding that the cost for the ASG vessel won’t be known until it's on the slipway and will be based on what’s needed to be done.


Robinson did say that the shipyard had carried out similar repairs to the tugboat Sailele involving propeller and other services, with a cost around $70,000. He says the $100,000 as allocated by the Senate in the supplemental should be sufficient at this time.