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American Samoa govt agencies preparing for GAO debt audit

Photo of American Samoa Executive Office Building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has identified eleven ASG entities that will be part of the local task force when the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducts the next review of the Public Debt Outlook of the five US territories, which includes American Samoa.

In a June 11 memo, the governor explains that the federal Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, authorizes and designates GAO to conduct a review of public debts for each US territory every two years per Congressional Mandate.

“Our 2017 territorial debt engagement was a successful review and if possible, ensures continuity of resources to ensure we meet federal requirements of this GAO notice,” he said, and identified the ASG entities that will be called on when a firm notification is received from GAO for the next review process.

Among the agencies are Treasury Department, Office of Budget and Planning, Commerce Department, Attorney General’s Office, Territorial Audit Office, Office of Financial Institutions, American Samoa Power Authority, American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority, ASG Shipyard Service, Port Administration and the Governor’s Office.

GAO’s Public Affairs managing director Charles Young told Samoa News in August 2017 that the comprehensive review for the five territories’ public debt is mandated by federal law, under provision of the federal Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act.

“For each of the territories,” he said, “GAO will report on trends in public debt and revenue for fiscal years 2005-2015. GAO will also look at the major reported drivers of the debt and what is known about the territories’ ability to repay.”

GAO said in the 2017 review, released in early October of last year that, for American Samoa, total public debt per capita grew from $414 per person in fiscal year 2005 to $1,212.80 in fiscal year 2015. GAO also notes that any additional disruption in the local cannery industry will impact the government’s ability to repay its debt. (See Samoa News edition Oct. 4, 2017 for details.)

In his report to the Fono early this year, the governor said the GAO investigation found that American Samoa’s debt level was far below its territorial counterparts. “The assessment also highlighted the harmful financial and economic effects of federal policies withdrawal to the long-term debts of the insular areas, particularly on their respective abilities to generate sufficient funds to defray bond payments,” said Lolo.

“Contrarily, American Samoa Government’s current long-term debt level of $148 million is being meticulously managed by local commitments to earmark sufficient revenues to ensure timely defrayment of interest and principal payments are consistently being met,” he said.