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Legislators concerned over collections look to request 2nd quarter report

Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — While the Lemanu-Talauega Administration has publicly stated that revenue collections for the current fiscal year — 2022 — are going well, some lawmakers remain concerned with a possible “drastic decrease” in the government’s coffers since January this year, especially with more stringent restrictions impacting businesses and workers when the COVID-19 community spread was confirmed on Feb. 22.

With the Fono currently in recess, some lawmakers are looking to make official requests for quarterly performance reports from ASG as well as the latest financial data update when lawmakers convene in July for the 4th Regular Session of the 37th Legislature.

Two weeks ago, during the virtual news conference, Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Ale was asked if government collections have been affected due to ongoing COVID-19 emergency declaration restrictions and he responded that the ASG Treasury report received shows collections and revenues continue to be good.

Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga gave a similar statement, during his extended Flag Day address delivered in Samoan, later on Apr. 18 on KVZK-TV.

But some lawmakers and others in the private sector are not convinced due to the fact that many businesses were closed — especially non essentially businesses — and workers laid off or had their working hours reduced at the outset of the community spread.

What lawmakers are looking for when the Fono returns in July, is the financial report for the 2nd Quarter of FY 2022 — which is the period from January to the end of March, as well as the third quarter — April to June.

No data or information was available at press time for the FY 2022 First Quarter Performance Report — Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2021 — on the status of ASG’s revenue collection.

However, the governor’s written State of the Territory Comprehensive Report submitted to the Fono in January this year states that the preliminary FY 2022 results for the first quarter — which ended Dec. 31, 2021 — “indicates we are again tracking to meet our forecasted revenue collections and maintain our quarterly budgeted expenditures.”

Preliminary FY 2022 first quarter revenue collections showed $27,832,803 and  expenditures remain under the threshold at $22,672,067 — “ensuring we adhere to budgetary compliance. Expenditures not exceeding revenue collections,” the report said, and noted that collections for the first quarter exceeded the forecasted budgeted amount.

Meanwhile, the ASG Budget and Planning Office director Catherine D. Saelua in an Apr. 13 letter, requested cabinet members to submit their 2nd Quarter Performance Report for FY 2022 no later than Apr. 29.

The reports should include stated work plan and program activities as well as the financial status report specific to the department’s operation on locally funded programs and those funded through federal grants.

In addition, the report must present an overall updated summary of total operations including but not limited to:

•           relationship of accomplishments and program services towards policy decisions and budget determinations by the governor and the Legislature;

•           costs of implementing the work and providing the services consistent with goals and objectives, and to the extend feasible, citing meaningful measurement of programs effectiveness and its impact; and

•           administrative improvements made in the preceding quarter, potential adjustments to further enhance continuous improvements and given impediments, proposed changes in the legislation and/or administrative procedures to promote future advancement.

“To fully meet our mandates,” Saelua requested cabinet members to submit their reports in a timely manner “thereby enabling us to compile and accurately present the current financial status of the American Samoa Government to the Governor and the Legislature.”

And it’s this 2nd quarter performance report that lawmakers want to review and make a comparison with any current financial statement.