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ASG 1st quarter report — Fono only branch overspending its budget

Despite impending uncertainties and challenges due to the closing of Samoa Tuna Processors Inc. cannery and the new administration of US President Donald Trump, there is hope that the White House will make good on its campaign promises to improve the nation’s economy, according to ASG Budget and Planning Office director Catherine D. Saelua, in a Feb. 13 letter to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, which also accompanied the ASG First quarter performance report for fiscal year 2017 — covering the period of Oct. 1, 2016- Dec. 31, 2017.

A copy of the report, which is in a booklet form, was recently sent to the Fono, with many lawmakers getting their copies.

Saelua, in her letter, explained that Trump’s plan would increase economic output up to 4% thereby creating job growth especially in the depressed beltway areas — in the U.S where people are unemployed and have been ‘forgotten’. Additionally, there are talks of a possible stimulus in the vicinity of up to $600 billion for infrastructure projects and tax cuts for corporations and individuals.

“Exactly when and how the President is going to roll out his plan to the states and territories remains to be seen,” Saelua said, adding that one notable action, that American Samoa is grateful for is Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement “thereby helping our cannery stay competitive.”

For ASG, Saelua said the first quarter ended “on an optimistic note” with the Executive, Judicial and Special Programs all operating within their 1st quarter budget apportionment — except for the Legislature.

Of the total $108.16 million for local funds approved under the FY 2017 budget, total expenditures at the end of the first quarter came to $24.12 million — with Executive Branch total expenditures at $17.28 million (or 25%); Judicial Branch expenditures total $573,481 (20%); Fono expenditures $1.93 million (or 28%); and Special Program expenditures $4.34 million (or 15%), according to data included in the Budget Director’s cover letter.

Overall, total local funds expenditure incurred in the first quarter is 22% of the approved $108.01 million, reflecting a 3% savings of the normal quarterly budget threshold of 25%, according to Saelua’s letter.

“In fact, given our current spending rate of $24.1 million this quarter, our year end estimates of total expenditures incurred is projected to be about $92.6 million,” she explained. “Given that no unusual circumstances occur during the course of this fiscal year, we expect forecasted spending trend in FY 2017 to be rather consistent with the previous fiscal year.”

And with budget containment measures currently in place, “I am highly optimistic we will contain our spending to be in line with our revenue collection in compliance with the Anti-Deficiency Act and achieve a balance budget,” she said.

She also wrote that although current revenue collection has been slow in the first quarter, the Treasury Department has given “their assurances that there is sufficient cash flow in our revenue pool to meet our expenses,” she added.

Of the total $24.1 million in expenditures in the first quarter, 71.2% went to personnel costs, 15% to “others”, 8.9% for contractual services; 3.4% supplies and services; and the rest in travel and equipment, according to the letter.

Treasury’s 1st quarter performance report, which is included with all the other agencies’ reports in a booklet sent to the governor and the Fono, does not provide a breakdown on revenues collected in the first quarter. 

The Lolo Administration has not included such information in the report for the past three years, although the Fono can request a report of revenue collections directly to Treasury Department.