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Governor’s Special Programs lists a number of new funding items

Rendering of the proposed new fono building.
Including payouts for political appointees made as an Admin leaves office

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Among the new projects to be funded under the Governor’s Special Programs proposed for fiscal year 2021 is money set-aside for the Leapaga Family land lease, court house repairs and payouts for political appointees.

But no questions were asked on several projects under the Special Programs when the governor’s chief of staff, Fiu J. Saelua and other senior officials from the Governor’s Office appeared Tuesday before the Fono Joint Budget Committee.

During a cabinet meeting last month, Office of Program Planning and Budget director Catherine D. Saelua said there’s a slight reduction  of 11% compared to FY 2020 under the Special Programs budget.

The FY 2021 budget proposal totaling $22.75 million, has some notable funding allocations, such as $21,000 for the Leapaga Family lease, with the governor saying that road improvements continue to be a priority. “As a consequence, this is a lease payment for family land being offered to construct an access road in Fagaima and Malaeimi area connecting to the main road, close to Manumalo Academy,” the governor explained.

There was no mention by the governor of the proposed $75,000 to the Leapaga family for the same land as listed in an Aug. 4th ASG Treasury Department report, which was subject of a House committee hearing last month. This money comes from ASG’s share of the millions of dollars it has allocated through the federal CARES Act.

Another new item under the FY 2021 Special Programs budget is $700,000 for “court house repairs”. Lolo said much needed repairs for the court house must be made to maintain a level of integrity that is more fitting for its operation. This is where the public seeks justice in our system, he said.

Also new is the $1 million for “political appointee payments” whose positions will be expiring soon due the completion of their contracts under the Lolo administration. “This will help defray the separating payout costs for leave and other benefits,” the governor said.

A similar payment amount was budgeted for political appointees for the last year of the Togiola Administration eight-years ago. Political appointees include executive branch cabinet members.

Another new allocation is $500,000 for Manu’a Local Road Maintenance, to help cover the cost of maintaining village roads and open access to the public. “Maintenance of local roads on Tutuila is common and the same has to be done in Manu’a,” the governor explained.

Special Programs already has an allocation of $1 million for Road Maintenance Subsidy, which ensures continuation of road maintenance and improvements throughout the Territory. This funding will also supplement other federal funds aimed for local road repairs. There’s also a budget of $550,000 for Road Maintenance Fund — overseen by Public Works — under the Enterprise Fund.

Also newly allocated under the Special Programs is $100,000  for Pago Harbor Cleanup and the funds will be used to offset costs of maintaining a clean harbor.