ASG made a surplus of $36 million in Fiscal Year 2023, and the Lemanu Talauega administration has spent the money without appropriation by the Fono.
Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean informed senators, Friday, that he and Speaker Savali Talavou Ale were informed of the surplus at a meeting, Thursday, with Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga.
Tuaolo said he didn’t sleep well that night as he was very disturbed knowing that the appropriations authority of the Fono had been usurped, in that the administration has spent the funds without the Legislature’s approval.
He said Speaker Savali was also unhappy with what has happened.
The news didn’t go down well in the Senate.
Senators Malaepule Saite Moliga and Togiola Tulafono said this was a serious matter because it showed that the executive branch is spending government funds as it wants, and the Fonos’ appropriations authority has been neglected altogether.
They said the right thing to do if there’s a surplus is to submit a supplemental appropriations bill to the Fono for approval.
Senator Malaepule also voiced his displeasure with the access road projects, which were reportedly funded with the surplus money. He said the government is clearing family lands without the consent of landowners.
He said the spending of funds without appropriation by the Fono has become a normal thing with this administration.
Senator Togiola Tulafono said this matter should not be taken lightly, and they should seriously consider how to respond; otherwise, it will continue.
He said what saddens him is that the public is burdened with the high cost of living yet someone is playing with government funds, and there’s no reprieve for the public. He said if they find that anyone has violated the law, the Fono should take action on behalf of the public.
“We cannot cover up or hide any violation but to do our duty,” said Togiola.
The Governor’s Office sent the Fono the supplemental budget for appropriation of the $36 million surplus, Friday afternoon.
Governor Lemanu explained that the revenues are from Fiscal Year 2023. The FY2023 budget estimated individual taxes at $28.4 million, but actual revenues collected was $63.5 million.
Interest income was estimated at $10,000, but actual interest earned was $4.1 million
Here’s how the surplus funds are to be appropriated:
- $21.5 million to the Governor’s Office for infrastructure projects in Tutuila and Aunuu;
- $10.4 million to the Governor’s Office for infrastructure projects in Manu’a;
- $2.5 million to the American Samoa Medicaid State Agency for the Medical local match;
- $1.5 million to the Governor’s Office to address audit results on the use of COVID-19 funding.