AMERICAN SAMOA AGENCIES DISCLOSE PRIVATE ACCOUNTS

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Nov. 8) - Three ASG departments have told Treasurer Velega Savali about private bank accounts, which are outside of the government's General Fund, not under the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department.

Governor Togiola Tulafono recently directed all departments that they had until Nov. 4 to bring forward information on all bank accounts that are not under the Treasurer's control. The governor's directive was issued to directors during a cabinet meeting on Oct. 3.

The governor told directors that all ASG accounts must have the Treasurer's signature and after Nov. 4, the Treasury Department will go after these types of bank accounts, close them, and transfer funds into the General Fund.

Yesterday, Velega said only three agencies have brought to his office the necessary information about their bank accounts: the Department of Health, the Office of Samoan Affairs and the Department of Education.

In order to keep these accounts, the departments have to justify the need for the account as well as make sure that the Treasurer's signature is on the account. "We are working on reviewing and getting my signature on these accounts," he said.

"The problem we face is that some departments established their own accounts without the involvement of the Treasurer," said Velega. "They are allowed to hold bank accounts if the Treasurer has oversight to ensure checks and balances, which means to ensure the money spent is in accordance with the reason the account was established."

He said once the account has the Treasurer's required signature, then all paper work regarding the issuance of payment is submitted to the Treasurer for review before it's signed.

Velega said this is already done with the accounts under the Territorial Office of Fiscal Reform and the Department of Public Works.

A Treasury Department official is making contact with the local banks to find out which other ASG departments have their own bank account not under the Treasurer's jurisdiction.

However, Velega said the difficulty at this point is that the accounts are not set up under a Department's name, so it will take a while to trace the necessary information.

He does hope that departments having their own accounts will fully comply with the governor's verbal directive.

The Fono, especially the Senate has continued to question these government accounts that are not under the jurisdiction of the Treasury. The Senate maintains that the Treasurer is the only legal government official authorized to sign on any government bank account.

Early last month, the Fono passed a Senate measure prohibiting opening and keeping special accounts by government agencies and offices. It states in part that only the Treasurer may establish an account for a territorial government agency.

Lolo said yesterday that there has been no word from the Administration as to the status of this "important legislation", but he hopes the governor endorses the bill.

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