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Faipule questions HR director about how ASG might retain unused grant funding

 Vailoata Eteuati Amituana'i and Mrs. Lynn Pulou Alaimalo
Not their job HR director says — they administer that classifications are met

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The House of Representatives hearing on Thursday, March 30, 2023 held a Budget and Appropriation committee hearing headed by chairman Vailoata Eteuati Amituana'i with Director of Human Resources, Mrs. Lynn Pulou Alaimalo testifying.

The hearing involved a discussion about how an ASG employee’s compensation is determined for those who are hired to work on specific grants and how grant money could be saved and then retained in the territory — rather than be returned to the grantor.

 “Can you elaborate on Human Resource’s current plan on lowering the pay rate for government employees to sustain the longevity of any Federal grants, or programs, from the federal government?” asked Faipule Tautoloitua Sauasetoa Ho Ching in his query to the HR Director.

Mrs. Alaimalo explained that the DHR classifies grant jobs “based off of the appropriated budget to sustain the grant — meaning, if a specific grant has a timeframe of 2 years, we want to be able to sustain the amount allocated in that specific grant in that time.

“So if we decide to give an employee a salary of $100,000, we have to confirm if that amount is available to sustain that salary, but usually it does not work like that.”

Instead she said, “Usually, you have to go and apply for a position that is open and your salary won’t be $100,000.”

For more clarity, Faipule Ho Ching also asked, “If you are lowering the pay of ASG employees, say for example, if a specific grant had an allocated budget of $100,000 and an employee is actually being compensated $30,000 to sustain the payroll, where is the excess funds of said grants going?”

Alaimalo replied that the HR Department has no say in appropriated funds received.

“Say for example, if there is $60,000 available for a vacant position, we send it through to our classification team, and they work on the entire assessment and evaluate whatever amount that is not factored into that classification.

“We don’t handle it basically, so it just goes back to the grantors.

“But the amount that we classify, meaning if it’s $60,000 and it is available, we classify based on the background and the credentialing system, [if] we come up with an amount lower than $60,000, [then] that is the compensation we will be offering to an applicant for the entirety of the grant.”

This confirms the statement that the excess funds from any federal grant that are unused are returned to the grantor.

Faipule Ho Ching asked, “Why couldn't they figure out how to utilize and allocate all these funds for the use of the government, so it wouldn’t be returned?”

Alaimalo responded that “it would be based on each financial consultant, in each department, because they are the ones who are actually responsible for the grants, but our job is classification, we maintain the statute’s that we use to specify and evaluate each position.”

Faipule Ho-Ching also wondered whether or not it is the DHR’s responsibility to make sure that each grant is being assessed [in full] to be used for government purposes, to which Mrs. Alaimalo said, “There is a point of contact for each Department because they are not centralized under one organization.

“Each department has their own grants, so when they do submit it to us, all we do is verify that the funding is available and we send it over to our team for classification.

“And owing to the fact we are actually administrative, our numbers go up to the Budget office before it gets to us.

“We just make sure that the money is there, [and] evaluate and assess the terms of the grants.

“We don’t monitor or forecast any numbers on the finances.”

Ho-Ching concluded his questioning by commending the HR Director in her strategy to implement vital training throughout the American Samoa Government, and also in Manu’a, such as updating and educating ASG employees about information technology.