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Service agreement signed with FEMA to fast track pandemic fight

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Government and the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have signed the service agreement that expedites activities aimed to empower ASG to quickly and effectively implement efforts to combat the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

This is according to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga in a letter to FEMA Region IX regional administrator Robert J. Fenton Jr., who was also informed that ASG has implemented an ASG internal payment process to ensure transparency.

Lolo points out that in signing the agreement between ASG and FEMA, he delegated the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR) and other local officials to work with FEMA, the “authority to expedite activities aimed to empower ASG to quickly and to effectively implement planned actions to facilitate successful achievement of our collective objective.”

In “keeping with the dictates of the Agreement,” Lolo said the GAR/ Alternate GAR would be a conduit through which all incurred expenditures will be funneled to FEMA for reimbursement.

He also noted that he has established an internal process, which requires all ASG agencies including semi-autonomous entities to have their requests for reimbursement by FEMA be vetted by the ASG COVID-19 Task Force for transmission to the governor for approval.

These approved expenditures, said the governor, will be used by the GAR/ Alternate GAR “to fashion our financial requests to be transmitted to FEMA for consideration. Invariably, the process established between FEMA and ASG is not affected by this internal [payment] process.”

“This action is taken to ensure total accountability and full transparency along with placing our limited resources where they are most needed,” he said, noting that the people of American Samoa “are extremely grateful for the federal leadership which gave rise to availing needed resources” for states and territories.

At a COVID-19 Task Force briefing early this month, the governor announced that he has instituted a strict protocol for processing COVID-19 payments to ensure transparency and accountability in the process.

In a new memo to cabinet members, the governor stressed that the COVID-19 Expenditure Approval form will be required to be filled out to accompany all planned expenditures requests transmitted to the ASG Emergency Operations Center.

All these requested expenditures will be collected and transmitted to the Governor’s Office for review and to secure final approval before it’s returned to the EOC to complete the process with the articulation of these expenditure requests to FEMA, he said.

“Before you spend your resources, approval must be solicited and obtained” with the completion of the expenditure form, said Lolo and emphasized the need for justification of requesting such expenditures.

“While the business of saving lives is our primary objective, it does not negate our responsibility to be financially accountable by engaging in spending prudence,” Lolo said. “Given our limitations to our government’s revenue coffer, we are looking to the federal government to help us defray the cost of all incurred expenses consequential to the activities implemented to curb the entry and abate the spread of the COVID-19.”