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Budget director presents a positive picture on ASG spending

While the government has yet to pay several vendors and has also failed to give LBJ Medical Center the $1 million in ASG subsidies during the first quarter of fiscal year 2016, ASG’s Budget Office’s Program and Budget director Catherine D. Saelua has presented a positive picture of local spending for the first three months - Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 2015 - of FY 2016.


“The preliminary assessment of our local funds” for FY 2016 for the first quarter “is quite positive,” Saelua said in her cover letter to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga when submitting the ASG first quarter performance report.


“In fact,” she declared, “all three branches of government including the Special Programs spent below the normal quarterly budget threshold of 25%.” She explained that total local funds’ expenditures incurred are 19% of total approved annual budget of $103.42 million or “better than the norm.”


Of the total approved budget, total expenditures at the end of the first quarter came to $19.88 million — with Executive Branch total expenditures at $13.96 million (or 20%); Judicial Branch expenditures total $428,785 (or 15%); Fono expenditures $1.65 million (or 24%); and Special Program expenditures $3.83 million (or 16%, according to data included in Saelua’s cover letter.


Saelua said that the first quarter spending also included the debt service payment commitments for the bond series financials that were recently obtained. (The three bond series were issued by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority - or ASEDA).


She is also grateful that revenue collection is sufficient to meet total expenditures for the first quarter, “thus attaining compliance with the Anti-Deficiency Act and balance budget.”


She noted that all ASG entities submitted their performance report in a timely manner and they all operated within their approved budgets. In closing, she said, the report’s intention “is to help our leaders stay informed on the [financial] status of our government and provide a better understanding on specific programs in each department and agency.”


Despite the spending within the approved budget, some departments have voiced concerns with Fono that they have not been able to purchase supplies and materials due to the lack of funding. And in it’s first quarter performance report, the Department of Education — which has been the target of Fono hearings and criticism in the past — said that some vendors refuse to release supplies with purchase orders unless ASDOE past bills are paid in full and this really affects Vocational Education orders of supplies both on island and off island. ASDOE, however, didn’t specify if vendors were to be paid with local or federal grants.


Lawmakers have also received reports that due to the lack of funding, ASDOE is unable to purchase supplies and materials for several public schools; and Samoa News has received since early this year, concerns from a handful of local businesses that they are still owed money by ASG and these outstanding debts cover both local and federal grants.


At LBJ, the hospital’s first quarter financial statement shows a deficit of $2.4 million and the hospital Chief Financial Officer, Pauline Gebauer says if the hospital had received the outstanding $1 million within the quarter for its ASG subsidy, the deficit — naturally would have been less, however, “It is still a sizable amount and will require a collective effort to improve upon this number for the next quarter.” (See Samoa News edition Feb. 26 for details.)


And during a Senate committee hearing last month, LBJ chief executive officer Taufete’e John Faumuina revealed that ASG subsidies are in arrears by $1.1 million and that based on LBJ financial records the ASG Treasury has not submitted about $4 million from the 2% wage tax.