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Fono reconvenes with FY 2019 budget hearings topping the agenda

Rendering of proposed new Fono Building
Groundbreaking for new Fono building slated for Aug. 15

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Fono reconvened yesterday morning, following a three-week mid session recess, and priority on the agenda is the fiscal year 2019 budget, which begins Oct. 1, 2018.

The Lolo Administration is planning to submit the FY 2019 budget to the Fono sometime later this week, after the big-budget book is printed by the ASG Print Shop, just as lawmakers are returning from their mid session recess.

The budget is considered the priority of the Fono at this time and requests to the Administration to provide the latest updated reports on revenue collections versus expenditures is expected, prior to budget hearings being called.

For semi autonomous entities, they are requested in advance to provide a profit and loss statement. In past years, some entities have failed to comply, causing a delay in their budget review.

The FY 2019 budget ceiling threshold is the same as the current fiscal year, and ASG Budget Office director, Catherine Saelua asked executive branch agencies, during a recent cabinet meeting, “to be mindful” of the fact “that the [budget] ceilings are based on meetings between Treasury and all those revenue agencies projecting for the FY 2019 revenues, which the budget is based upon.”

During yesterday’s Senate session, Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman, Sen. Magalei Logovi’i requested a committee hearing sometime this week to question the ASG Budget and Planning Office, regarding concerns raised by several senators.

Among the concerns, said Magalei, are travel authorization (TA) requests for senators being put on hold by the Budget Office instead of the TAs being processed for payment. 

Magalei said the committee wants to question the Budget Office about who gave the Budget Office the authority to put on hold expenditure requests including TAs from the Fono, which is a separate branch of government.

He noted that there is a separation of powers for all three branches of government.

A hearing date will be announced soon, but Magalei wants it done this week while there is time to review other matters that come before the Senate, as the Fono awaits the Administration’s official submission of the FY 2019 budget.

Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie has agreed to hold hearings on other matters this week while they await the FY 2019 budget submission.

Gaoteote has announced that the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new two-story Fono building is set for Aug. 15.

Work has been ongoing at the site of the old Fono building to stabilize the ground, after the old structure was taken down last year. Information on the contractor for the construction phase of the project is expected to be announced soon.