ASG Treasurer explains two reasons gov’t doesn’t pay its bills
With the Lolo Administration starting its second four-year term, ASG Treasurer Uelinitone Tonumaipea has urged all cabinet directors to follow procurement procedures so that payments are issued and all are abiding with other policies already in place.
Tonumaipea’s statement was made during his presentation at a recent cabinet meeting, and the presentation revealed that there are still problems when it comes to some cabinet members and ASG employees adhering to set policies, implemented during the first term of the Lolo administration.
Tonumaipea reminded directors of the procurement process, which is very important.
He revealed that many directors called Treasury asking for an invoice to be paid, but upon further research it’s discovered that there is no purchase request or purchase order made, only the invoice.
“Follow the procurement process,” he emphasized. For example, get a purchase requisition then go to the Budget and Planning Office, which will determine if there’s money in the department’s budget. Thereafter, obtain a purchase order, which is taken to make the purchase and then take the invoice to Treasury.
What’s happening, he said, is that the invoice is taken to Treasury for payment without a receiving report from Procurement.
“We cannot pay your vouchers or invoices unless we have the Receiving Report,” he reminded directors, who were urged to “please” go to the Procurement office for the receiving report before bringing the documents to Treasury to process payment.
He explained that there are two reasons an invoice is not paid: First: Incomplete documentation, missing purchase order or receiving report and not follow procurement rules; and, Second, there is no money.
“So despite you being angry, if there is no money, payment cannot be made,” he said. “We’re not like the federal government, which prints its own money. We don’t have a money tree. Our spending depends on our collections. If we have good collections, we pay our bills.”
And when purchases are made for “fixed assets”, Tonumaipea said it’s very important to have the Property Management Office “report and tag your fix assets” — which is also very important when fixed assets are purchased with federal money.
He reminded directors of the travel authorization (TA) policy where the TA is “routed for approval first” and recommended to the directors, to not make “your booking, buy the ticket and then attach it to the TA and then route it for approval. Attaching your ticket to the TA does not guarantee approval.”
He reminded directors of the TA policy, which calls for the TA to be routed for approval 45 days before travel; and noted some cabinet members are currently routing TAs two weeks before travel, while others are routing one week before travel.
He said only the governor or lieutenant governor approves emergency travel. Additionally, don’t forget to file a travel expense report, Tonumaipea said, which is a requirement. Failure to file the expense report would result in the next TA request being denied, until the report is filed from the previous trip.
And if no report is filed within 30-days upon returning from the travel, Tonumaipea said Treasury can deduct from that person’s pay check the total amount of the TA. “Please remind your staff about the required report,” he added.
Another important issue relating to travel is the “travel period and destination”. For example — regarding travel period — if the official meeting is for three days and the following week the ASG employee or director is involved in personal matters, the government will not pay for that extra week.
He said many employees have complained about this issue, but “we are doing our job — we can only pay for the one week” which covers the meeting dates, but not the extra week for personal matters.
Addressing the issue of destination, if the meeting is in Seattle, the government will pay for travel from American Samoa via Honolulu to Seattle, but, for example, “if you want to leave early to see ‘your number two’ in Dallas, you are responsible to pay that travel” on the Dallas segment.
Tonumaipea’s use of the Samoan words — “lau numera lua” (your number two) — brought laughter from cabinet directors.
The Treasurer said the same rule applies to the person returning home after a meeting and wants to make a stop elsewhere to see his/her family. That side trip is the responsibility of the director or ASG employee.
FY 2016 AUDIT
According to the Treasurer, audit of fiscal year 2016 is in progress with the fieldwork, which is to be completed in the first two weeks of this month. Target date for the audit report to be issued is Apr. 30 and Tonumaipea requested ASG’s semi autonomous agencies, to provide their audited financial statements, at least by Mar. 30, because they’re needed for the overall ASG audit.