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Senate questions what’s happening to their TAs

Program Planning and Budget director Catherine D. Saelua

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — ASG Office of Program Planning and Budget director Catherine D. Saelua has informed senators that her office has always processed expenditures requested by the Senate, including Travel Authorization (TA) requests, but only held such requests following Tropical Cyclone Gita, which impacted the territory early this year.

Saelua gave the explanation during a Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing on Monday, as committee chairman Sen. Magalei Logovi’i requested her testimony following concerns raised by some senators that the Budget Office has held the processing of Senate expenditures, especially TA requests.

Magalei noted last week that the Fono is a separate entity of the government and therefore, operates independently from the Executive Branch.

During the committee hearing, Magalei reiterated this same statement and also shared that he has received some good news last week that expenditures are being process following meetings between the Fono leaders and the governor to discuss several matters.

However, some senators are concerned with TA requests being held at all by the ASG Budget Office, he said.

Saelua responded that holding TA requests and other expenditures of the Senate is not happening in her office, and acknowledged the separation of powers in all three branches of government.

She explained that the only time there was a hold on processing expenditures was early this year after the governor issued an emergency order and directive following Gita for ASG resources to be directed for post-storm matters.

“This was the only time that there was a hold up,” she said, noting that once the directive was lifted, her office re-opened the processing of Fono requests, especially TAs and other requests from the Senate.

Saelua also pointed out that she doesn’t want the Fono to overspend its approved budget,  and that expenditures such as personnel costs and utilities are priorities to be processed for payment even during the time of the governor’s emergency order for Gita.

Magalei suggested that the Budget Office process requests from the Senate.

Except during the governor’s emergency order, Saelua again noted that she doesn't recall holding Senate TA requests, but “yes” to when it comes to holding TA requests from the House of Representatives.