AMERICAN SAMOA GOVERNMENT IS BROKE

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (October 3, 1999 – Samoa Observer)---The American Samoan government is so broke that Governor Tauese Sunia had to approve a special fund of US$ 45.8 million to keep it going. Governor Tauese was forced to sign into law an incomplete budget so that the money would allow the government to continue operating for the first quarter of fiscal year 2000, which began October 1.

"I see this action as a better alternative to ceasing government operations, which would be highly injurious to the public and government employees," Tauese told the Fono (legislature).

The Governor’s communiqué was transmitted to the leadership about 3.00 p.m. on Thursday, September 30 -- just nine hours before the end of fiscal year 1999.

Saying that he had done so "with reluctance and great concern," the Governor said he still believed that there were constitutional and statutory requirements for a full annual budget. "This piecemeal approach to fiscal management severely restricts the ability of the government to operate," he continued.

With a budget that only covers the first quarter, the Governor said the obligations for anticipated projects and contracts which would extend beyond the first quarter cannot be entered into. This would "jeopardize the ability of this Territory to progress," he said.

"Comprehensive financial planning as contemplated by our laws cannot be accomplished," he added.

According to the Governor, the administration has provided the information requested by the Joint Budget Committee. "Upon the call of a Special Session, I urge you to move with greatest diligence to present a complete annual budget," he concluded.

The Governor, however, did not say when the Special Session would be called to complete the final FY 2000 budget. The budget committees of the Fono are still conducting reviews.

Senator Tuilefano M. Vaelaa, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said it would take them two to three weeks to complete the task of correcting various discrepancies they have discovered.

The Fono earlier requested that a special session be called for mid-October or early November.

For additional reports from the Samoa Observer, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa Observer.

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