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More than $10mil remains unused for FY 2018 under Special Programs

Rendering of proposed new Fono Building
Fiu says funds can only be expended when money is available

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — More than $10.42 million remained unexpended for fiscal year 2018 under the Governor’s Special Programs, according to the program’s FY 2018 financial report dated Sept. 17th, outlining the year-to-date balance of the projects to be funded under the current fiscal year.

The report, provided by the Governor's Office, was presented last Friday during the last day of the Fono Joint Budget Committee hearing for FY 2019.

And it was the committee that requested the report, because some of the programs/projects in FY 2018 are again proposed for FY 2019, according to joint budget committee co-chairman Sen. Magalei Logovi’i.

The approved FY 2018 budget for Special Programs totaled $23.97 million, but the report shows that the year-to-date balance stands at over $10.42 million, which includes a few programs for which the money is yet to be expended.

For example, the committee noted the $100,000 allocated for the Farm Subsidy Program, which the Administration says is an incentive scheme to encourage people to farm different agriculture cash crops and produce, to reduce local dependency on imports.

This is the same explanation and amount proposed for FY 2019, but Magalei questioned why the subsidy for FY 2018 was not used to help farmers who sustained damage to their farms following Tropical Storm Gita early this year.

Magalei, a long time farmer himself, says farmers didn’t get any help from the ASG Department of Agriculture, but this subsidy remains unused with only a few days left in FY 2018 — which officially closes Sept. 30, 2018.

The Governor’s chief of staff, Fiu J. Saelua, who represented the Governor’s Office, reminded lawmakers that Special Programs are funded with local revenues and therefore, money is expended if there are funds available.

He said requests by farmers can be processed, to which Magalei wondered out loud when that will be done, since FY 2018 is coming to a close.

Another question raised by the committee is why there are a lot of unexpended funds — $826,179 from the $1 million allocated to the ASG Drug Enforcement Task Force which was charged with identifying and developing strategies to combat the serious drug problem on island. 

Fiu explained that there’s a lot of funding support for the task force from the Department of Human and Social Services and the Health Department, which are in partnerships with the Task Force.

For FY 2019, the Administration is proposing only $500,000 for the Task Force, saying the efficacy of any strategy is predicted on the involvement of the community and Village Oversight Infrastructure. Therefore, these funds will help develop these needed linkages from all facets of the community, businesses, and ASG.

Several lawmakers questioned Fiu on the Small Village/ Water Fund, which was allocated $150,000 in FY 2018 but the report presented to the Fono shows a year-to-date balance of $106,836. Some faipule claim their requests to the Governor’s Office for use of the Fund remain unanswered. Fiu again explained that expending funds for all programs is dependent on the availability of money.

The Administration is again proposing the same amount of $150,000 in FY 2019, saying this Fund is set aside to subsidize or match cost of small village-community needs.

According to the FY 2019 budget document, the governor is proposing $23.55 million for the new fiscal year, a reduction of more than $425,000 from FY 2018 due to some programs being completed in FY 2018.

There are at least three new projects being proposed to be funded in FY 2019:

•    $500,000 to help America Samoa host the 2019 Polynesian Leaders Group;

•    $100,000 to Hope House; and

•    $500,000 as a Fono subsidy — to assist and supplant the annual operations of the Legislature.  The subsidy shall also provide financial assistance in major projects as set by the Fono.

The Fono’s FY 2019 proposed budget is $6.91 million — same as the current fiscal year.