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Joint Budget hearings close after review of Fono and Special Programs

Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean
Manu’a Cession Day funding comes under scrutiny

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Fono Joint Budget Committee hearings of the government’s fiscal year 2022 budget ended yesterday, as scheduled. The next step that will be announced soon, is when the committee meets to discuss and debate a final version and present a report to both chambers for a vote.


The last two reviews on the budget hearing schedule included the Legislature, which in past years, the Legislative Financial Officer, Talalemotu Mauga, testified and answered questions on behalf of the Fono leaders. However, the LFO is currently off-island.

House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale informed lawmakers that the FY 2022 budget proposal made by the Fono leaders had been reduced from its original submission to the Executive Branch. Savali explained that following a meeting with the governor, who shared information on the new ASG minimum wage increase, the Fono submitted a budget to address the hikes for Fono employees.

While the total budget proposal submitted was around $9 million, Savali said the final proposed Fono budget came back reduced down to $8.1 million.

According to budget records, the Legislature’s final FY 2021 budget totaled $7.4 million. The Fono budget is 100% funded by local revenues. A summary of an ASG financial report distributed to the Senate during a separate committee hearing on Monday shows that as of June 30, 2021, the actual year-to-date expenditure for the Fono was just over $5 million.


The other final budget reviewed yesterday was for the Special Programs overseen by the Governor’s Office and totaled $316.4 million for FY 2022 — the FY 2021 approved budget was for $240.28 million.

One of the issues raised with the Governor’s chief of staff, Tuimavave Tauapa’i Laupola dealt with funds for the Manu’a Cession Day, with Sen. Magalei Logovi’i wanting to know how much was set aside for this event and the funding source.

Tuimavave said that $150,000 was planned for the Manu’a Flag Day and money came from the “Ceremonial Activities” allocation — in the Special Programs budget.

Magalei noted that the Manu’a Flag Day was a great event but he received word from a Manu’a traditional leader that they only received $5,000. Additionally, information that has come to his attention states that vendors involved in the event have billed ASG and want to get paid.

Magalei said the ASG delegation to Manu’a was very well taken care of by Manu’a residents, although cabinet members who traveled there and others received per diems.

Later in the hearing, Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean  told Tuimavave that lawmakers raised concerns and questions on behalf of residents and others, who have no voice and was the reason for Magalei’s queries. Tuaolo asked if the money given to Manu’a for the flag day was cash or checks.

Tuimavave said prizes for the fishing tournament and the farm fair were in cash, while checks were issued for participating groups and others for the Flag Day ceremony. He claimed that “we took” to Manu’a $70,000 and it was all spent in Manu’a.

For the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) budget item, there is not much the Fono can do about it as it’s federally funded and the ASG priority list of projects for CIP funding is usually done way in advance by the Governor’s Office.