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ASG Budget director says government spending is under control — so far

Office of Budget and Planning director, Catherine D. Saelua
Financial report notes that year-end estimates of expenses projected at $87.4M

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Government spending of Local Funds was maintained below the 50% threshold during the second quarter of fiscal year 2019 — covering the period of Jan. 1 to Mar. 31, 2019 — according to the ASG second quarter performance report submitted by Office of Budget and Planning director, Catherine D. Saelua to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga.

The report provides a “brief preliminary snapshot” of local funds only, but does not include money from the federal government. ASG’s total FY 2019 budget stands at $439.59 million — of which $98.69 million are Local Funds.

As previously reported by Samoa News, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga implemented Cost Containment Measures at the beginning of this year — the start of the 2nd quarter of FY 2019 — due to the longest federal shutdown impacting ASG finances.

The measures called for freezing local funds that cover overtime, travel, new hires; and proper review of funding contract renewals. And there still remains an uncertainty in federal funding due to federal policy changes.

“Despite the volatile nature of our cash flow, we have sustained the spending levels within the same range but slightly higher from the same period” in FY18, Saelua wrote in the cover letter of the report, which was also sent to the Fono.

“In fact, given our current spending rate of $39.7 million this quarter, our year end estimates of the expenditures incurred is projected to be approximately $87.4 million, most likely to be at the low end of the projected range,” she explained.

And “despite the challenges, we continued to be disciplined and remained astute financially,” she continued, adding that she “applauds the fact that all branches of government including the Special Programs,” operated within the approved budget, expending only 40% of the 50% threshold during the first half of FY 2019.

As a matter of fact, Saelua said the Year-to-Date expenditures incurred in the 2nd quarter are only 40% of the approved annual local funds budgeted, reflecting a 5% savings or about $9.7 million.

“All in all, budget containment measures continue to be in place to achieve a balanced budget and assert compliance with the Anti-Deficiency Act by year end,” she said.

According to her, historically, “revenue collections trend consists of peak and valleys throughout the year”. But with the newly recruited Chief of Customs, “perhaps this would provide a much needed boost in enforcement to a new level,” she points out.

Of the $39.7 million of total year-to-date expenditures incurred in the 2nd quarter, 68% is personnel, 13% others, 13% contractual, 4% materials and supplies, and the rest is travel and equipment.

Saelua concludes by saying that the primary purpose of the report is to help local leaders stay informed on current operations of government and provide them with better understanding on specific programs being administered by each department and agency.

As in past quarterly performance reports, the Treasury Department no longer provides a quarterly financial update on ASG until the end of the fiscal year. However, lawmakers are expected to request these reports, to get an update on ASG revenues and expenditures.