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Education funding report shows lots of money allocated, little spent

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Lolo admin submitted exit report in Nov, no further accounting since

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Prior to leaving office, former Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga submitted the required initial report to the US Department of Education (USDOE) outlining the allocation and spending of more than $7 million awarded under the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) program.

According to the governor’s initial report — submitted last November — more than $5.30 million is allocated for eight public schools and over $1.85 million to five private schools. USDOE public records show that as of Nov. 30, 2020 — based on spending reported to USDOE — only $893,124 of the $7.2 million has been spent.

Since early last month, when the COVID-19 financial spending report by the government surfaced at the House and became a subject of discussions, there were questions raised with Samoa News by local residents regarding the GEER funds awarded to American Samoa. Local inquiries were concerned whether or not any report was filed in accordance with federal requirements, as the new Lemanu Administration took office on Jan. 3, 2021.

As previously reported by Samoa News, the USDOE awarded the local Education Department (ASDOE) more than $45.59 million under provisions of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Data released at the time shows that American Samoa’s allocations cover two programs — over $38.32 million under the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief (ESSER) Fund for State Education Agencies (SEA) and more than $7.27 million for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) program.

The GEER funds were awarded to American Samoa in June of last year, and in October, Lolo informed then ASG Treasurer, Ueligitone Tonumaipea, of the approval given on the allocation of GEER funds for public and private schools while  $117,438 was set aside for “administrative associated costs and other emergency needs at our schools.”

Of the more than $7.1 million allocated to “construction”,  $5.30 million goes to 8 public schools — seven of them for new classrooms and one for a gymnasium: Fagaitua High $850,000; Samoan High $839,000; Pavaiai Elementary $832,753; Alataua II Elementary $753,000; Nuuuli VocTech High $880,000; Manu’a High $500,000; Leone High $500,000; and Samoana High gym improvements $150,000.

For private schools, five were allocated funds: Kanana Fou School $300,000; Marist St. Francis Elementary $400,000; Manumalo $400,000; Iakina School $350,000; and Marist Faasao High $400,000.

The information from the letter was part of the Governor’s Economic Stabilization Funds (ESF) initial report submitted Nov. 2, 2020 to USDOE, which has so far made public on its website all reports from other US states and territories.

For the  $117,438 set aside for “administrative associated costs and other emergency needs at our schools” American Samoa’s report shows that $100,000 is budgeted for the following:

•     equipment for project management, compliance and monitoring including but not limited to office computers, printers, scanners and copier machines;

•     purchase of a new vehicle to conduct compliance and monitoring at each construction site.

•     office communications equipment and improvements to support and facilitate compliance and monitoring work.

“There are no personnel costs and therefore no indirect costs,” according to the report, which also says that $17,438 is budgeted for office supplies, sanitation suppliers, furniture and fuel.

A timeline given in the report states that construction for the project is to be completed in August 2021, with funding expiring in September this year.

Towards the end of November last year, the government held separate ground breaking ceremonies for the new school buildings for Fagaitua, Samoana, Pavaiai and Alataua Lua.

As of yesterday morning USDOE’s public information does not show any updated reports filed from American Samoa by the Lemanu Administration and there’s no clear indication at press time as to the status of the constructions projects for the schools identified in the report.