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Governor signs new executive order to temporarily continue gov’t operations

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga
Has not signed last “Fono action” on Admin bill — with two amendments

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Under a new executive order dated Oct. 31st, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga temporarily continued government operations at fiscal year 2020 budget levels, while calling soon for another special session of the Fono to finalize the fiscal year 2021 budget.

The governor ordered that operations of ASG, including all departments, agencies, and semi autonomous agencies as well as the Legislature and Judiciary branches are to continue at FY 2020 budgetary levels, utilizing funds not otherwise appropriated for an additional 60-days — starting Oct. 31st — or until the formal budget or other appropriations measures are adopted.

“No expenditures for projects or activities in excess of FY 2020 levels may be made by any instrumentality of the government,” according to the governor’s order, which points out that “it is imperative to maintain government operations, especially as the territory is in the midst of a state of emergency” — referring to the extended COVID-19 declaration.

Additionally, this “order is intended to be only temporary in nature and limited to maintain only the current levels of operations until the [FY 2021] budget has been formally adopted,” the governor said, noting that a special session is being called to finalized the FY 2021 budget.

Asked for information on when the special session will convene and for how long, the governor’s executive assistant, Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, told Samoa News yesterday morning that the “date is yet to be determined.”

During the last special session, which closed Oct. 27th, the Fono approved an Administration bill — with two amendments — providing consolidated appropriations and temporary funding to continue government operations until action on regular appropriations are completed. Further, the bill allows for continuing appropriations and prevents a “funding gap and corresponding government shutdown” for the fiscal year 2021.

Asked on the status of this Fono approved bill with the governor for his review and consideration, Iulogologo said the “governor has not signed the last Fono action.”

Several lawmakers have questioned the legality of the governor using an executive order to continue temporary funding for ASG, arguing that the recent Fono approved bill is the “legal” way to continue funding government operations until a final FY 2021 budget bill is enacted into law.