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“Unbudgeted” commitments continue to gnaw at budget

The American Samoa Government’s $5 million supplemental appropriation for fiscal year 2013 is included in the latest financial government report released by Treasury Department in its second quarter performance report for the fiscal year, and the administration still has some “unbudgeted” commitments to deal with, carried forward from the previous administration.


This is according to ASG Treasurer Dr. Falema’o ‘Phil’ M. Pili responding to Samoa News questions about ASG’s financial status as well as some of the financial information included in the Treasury’s latest report.


In reviewing Treasury’s 2nd quarter report, Samoa News noticed that revenues and expenditures — totaling $5 million from the supplemental bill approved by the Fono in early April and signed into law by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga on Apr. 12 — are included in the performance report. (This was also noticed by lawmakers who had the chance to review the report.)


Asked why the supplemental was included as part of the second quarter report, which ended Mar. 31, while the bill was signed Apr. 12th, which is already the start of the third quarter, Falema’o explained that the projected revenues have been loaded into the budgetary column, which showed the "as of date" of Apr. 26 (meaning revenue and expense includes the supplemental).


Among the expenses in the supplemental are those to pay legal obligations and Falema’o says ASG has paid Pacific Engineering ($282,000) and the Amosa S. Amosa Jr. settlement ($95,000).  His office is also processing with the U.S. Department of Labor salary overtime commitment ($916,000) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settlement (25,000).


Falema’o went on to confirm that the projected deficit in the second quarter dropped drastically from the first quarter, “due to increase in actual revenues collected” along with “controlled expenditures” in government.


Treasury had forecast, at the end of the first quarter which ended Dec. 31, 2012 — that the total general fund deficit would be  $8.86 million. With all other funds in the Treasury cash pool added, ASG was projecting a deficit of more than $9.8 million by the close of FY 2013.


However, in the second quarter performance report, Falema’o says ASG is now looking at a deficit of $1.25 million for the general fund. If other funds in the Treasurer’s Cash Pool are added, the Treasurer says ASG is forecasting a deficit of $3.01 million for FY 2013.


Asked about the ASG financial status in the last five months, since the Lolo Administration took over the helm of government, he said, “we still have many un-budgeted commitments carried forward from prior years; and we continually try to be more frugal, more creative in how we expend our limited financial resources currently available.”


“However, we have been very active in our efforts to explore new revenue measures, determining ways to stabilize and to ensure financial liquidity to meet our immediate required treasury mandate,” he said. “It’s going to take a little time to materialize these planned innovative ideas, but when it finally comes into full fruition, it should bring renewal perspective to our overall economy as a whole.”


“I know the Governor believes that the key indicator in measuring our overall fiscal success in the next few months and the ensuing years is how well we bridge the government’s relationship with the private sector by determining ways to stimulate the economy,” he said, adding that the governor has charged Treasury, Commerce Department, the ASG Budget Office and other members of his cabinet to find ways to “accomplish this very important task”.


Meanwhile, Falema’o says he will check out budget information listed in the Treasury Department’s spreadsheet for fiscal year 2013 second quarter versus the first quarter pertaining to the Fono’s annual budget.


Samoa News points out that the first quarter Treasury report shows Fono’s approved annual budget allocation of $6.2 million (which is what was enacted into law for FY 2013) while the second quarter shows $6.08 million. Some lawmakers suspect it’s a printing error, but plan to follow this up with Treasury when the Fono convenes in July.


Based on a First Quarter Performance Report submitted by the ASG Treasury Department, the Fono is projected to have an overrun of $1.5 million in 2013; and the Fono has already overrun their first quarter budget by almost $400,000. However, the recently approved supplemental budget gave $500,000 back to the Fono‘s budget, which would put them back in the black as of the second quarter — as per Treasury’s "as of date" of Apr. 26 column — unless, of course, they overspent during the second quarter.