Budget Director: stay the course with cost containment measures
In order to safeguard critical program priorities as the government heads into the third quarter of the current fiscal year, ASG Budget Office director Catherine D. Saelua has reminded cabinet directors of the cost containment measures which have been in place since the Lolo Administration took office in 2013.
FY 2016 third quarter runs from Apr. 1 to June 31, while the second quarter ends Mar. 31. The FY 2016 second quarter performance report for the government should be released sometime in May this year and the report should give lawmakers a hint of where the government stands financially before tackling the next fiscal year’s budget.
In her Mar. 23 letter to executive departments and agencies, Saelua said that as ASG embarks into the 3rd quarter of FY 2016 “with a unique set of financial challenges and uncertainties, there remains our continued spirit of collaboration towards our common goal of achieving a balanced budget as mandated by law.”
Saelua didn’t elaborate on the “financial challenges and uncertainties” and lawmakers who were able to get a copy of the letter are now raising questions as to the status of ASG revenue collections during the 2nd quarter.
But with the 3rd Regular Session ending yesterday, lawmakers are not expected to raise questions on revenue collections until the 4th regular session convenes on the second Monday in July.
In her Mar. 23rd letter, Saelua points out that in order to obtain a balanced budget, it is “of the utmost importance that our current expenditures are contingent on actual revenue collections.”
“As a precautionary measure,” she revealed that a discussion had taken place between Office of the Governor, Department of Treasury, Human Resources and the Budget Office “to ensure that we remain steadfast in our Cost Containment Measures.”
Cabinet directors were reminded of some of those measures, which include that there are to be no new hires or replacements — unless a position is deemed critical. Additionally, there is a cease on personnel reclassifications/adjustments — with the exception of increments; restricted off island travel on local accounts — with the exception of Manu'a travel; and supplies and equipment are to be reviewed on an “as needed” basis. The stipulation is also in place that those supplies and equipment must be considered critical to the daily operation of the department or agency.
“Unbudgeted requests will be denied and returned,” Saelua reminded directors.
She concluded, “I appreciate your undivided attention to this matter and am confident that we can work together as leaders towards capping our spending while safeguarding funding for our critical program priorities.”
Saelua said in her cover letter of the ASG performance report for the first quarter (Oct. 1- Dec. 31, 2015) that “all three branches of government, including the Special Programs, spent below the normal quarterly budget threshold of 25%.”
She explained that total local fund expenditures incurred are 19% of the total approved annual budget of $103.42 million or “better than the norm.” (See Samoa News edition Feb. 29 for details)