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Lolo sends urgent plea to DOI for audit of ASG finances

To obtain a much clearer financial picture of the American Samoa Government for the incoming administration, governor-elect Lolo Matalasi Moliga has called on the U.S. Department of Interior for a “comprehensive financial audit” of all local government finances.

Lolo’s request was made in a Nov. 27 letter to DOI’s Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Anthony M. Babauta, saying that as he and Lt. Governor-elect Lemanu Peleti Sialega Mauga are prepared to assume ASG’s leadership, it is necessary to get a clear picture of the financial status of the local government at the close of the outgoing administration “and the starting point of our administration”.

“The inherent thought is to define the accurate condition of our financial status to guide future spending decisions as we endeavor to serve the people of American Samoa,” wrote Lolo, who pointed out that a meeting had already been held with Gov. Togiola Tulafono and “we appreciate very much his candor and forthrightness in divulging outstanding obligations and government arrears.”

Lolo, however, did not outline those outstanding obligations, but some of them — which have been reported in the local media — include the more than $800,000 in the Marisco Ltd., lawsuit at the federal court in Honolulu, the $6 million judgement from the old Laufou Shopping center fire now in the local appellate court, some $10 million in outstanding utility debts and at least two other local court judgments yet to be paid, because they require Fono approval.

In his letter to Babauta, Lolo says the revelations from the meeting with the governor “are disconcerting given their implications on our administration’s ability to promptly implement changes to improve the quality of life of our people.”

“Further, apprehension is caused by not knowing the exact total, types, and nature of outstanding government obligations and arrears,” he wrote.

Lolo then requested a “comprehensive financial audit of all government finances” to be conducted as soon as possible to obtain “accurate financial information to guide decisions relative to the establishment of new revenue generation strategies and expenditure containment measures.

“We cannot overstate the urgency of this request as we suspect that the financial condition of our government is rather fragile,” he said. “Delaying implementation of required mitigation strategies only exacerbates the perceived financial instability.”

Lolo pointed out that over the past 16-years during the Tauese-Togiola and then the Togiola-Faoa administration single audits have been conducted on the financial operations of American Samoa.

However, “...we are not confident that these audits accurately depict true financial status of our government,” he said, adding that “time is certainly of the essence” for carrying out an audit.