Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the House Appropriations Committee approved $23,110,000 for American Samoa operations, an increase of $331,000 above the fiscal year 2005 level. The Committee also approved a $2 million set aside for urgently needed medicines and supplies at the LBJ Tropical Medical Center. This comes as the result of a mutual understanding between the Congressman and the Governor who agreed that Congress should set aside $2 million of ASG’s $23 million annual operations grant for purposes of making sure that LBJ is never again without the medicines and supplies it needs to provide the people of American Samoa with adequate health care services.
“In response to the recent medical emergency in American Samoa, I wrote to Governor Togiola on April 1, 2005 and informed him that I had contacted the Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Supply Service Center (SSC) in Perry Point, Maryland and cleared the way for ASG to reestablish a relationship with the SSC to purchase medicines and supplies at government cost which will save ASG millions of dollars over time,” Faleomavaega said. “It is my understanding that Governor Togiola is now pursuing this option for the short-term and, for the long-term, the Governor and I have agreed for Congress to set aside $2 million of ASG’s operating funds for the annual purchase of medicines and medical supplies from the Supply Service Center.”
“On May 4, 2005, the Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations agreed to our request and today the full Committee has also agreed to support our initiative. We are hopeful that this initiative will prevent serious medical emergencies like this from happening in the future and, at this time, we wish to thank the Honorable Charles Taylor, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations, and Ranking Member Norman Dicks, for including language in the committee report to support our efforts.”
“Also included in the conference report is language concerning accountability of federal funds. As a follow-up to a promise I made during the 2002 elections, Congressman Nick Rahall, Ranking Member of the House Resources Committee, and I called for a GAO study to look at foreign investment in American Samoa and its impact on local businesses,” the Congressman said. “In response to this request, the GAO sent a team to American Samoa to review this request and found that American Samoa’s Department of Commerce does not keep a clear and accurate record of foreign versus local investment.”
“In fact, according to the GAO, the Department of Commerce’s records are vague and, as such, the GAO focused on American Samoa’s use of federal funds. Like other States and Territories, there are serious problems in the way that federal funds are managed in American Samoa and, as I have said before, I am hopeful that the GAO’s report will provide a base from which our local government can make improvements.”
“While I want to emphasize that other States and Territories also have problems, the GAO has provided our local leaders with a report that can be used to make necessary changes for the benefit of our people. Congress has also now weighed in on the matter with the following statement in the Conference Report for FY 2006 Interior Appropriations. The report states:
The Committee has reviewed recent work by the GAO concerning accountability for key Federal grants to American Samoa. Through Presidential delegation, the Secretary of the Interior exercises ultimate control and responsibility for, and has authority to take a proactive role in, the administration of the Territory of American Samoa. The Committee urges the Secretary to use this authority to coordinate with all Federal agencies that award funds to American Samoa and to encourage the other agencies to consider designating American Samoa a high-risk grantee under the Grants Management Common Rule. A coordinated approach to designation could include a basic set of special conditions to be applied by all Federal grant awarding agencies to grants to American Samoa. The designation could also include a basic set of corrective actions that American Samoa must take, including earning clean single audit opinions for two consecutive years before the special conditions are removed.
“As your Congressman, my job is to make sure American Samoa gets its fair share of federal dollars. The role of the local government is to manage our federal dollars. Locally, our federal funds must be managed in a way that benefits the Territory and especially improves our education and health care systems. Congress will continue to take an active interest in this issue because ultimately Congress is providing over 75% of the funds used for the operations of American Samoa.”
“In 2003, I released a detailed chart showing the amount of federal dollars that come into American Samoa. For example, in a seven-year period from 1995-2001, American Samoa received over one billion dollars in U.S. federal aid and over $770 million went directly to ASG.”
“While critics try to mislead our people on this point, the truth is, on a per capita basis, American Samoa continues to receive more federal funding for education than any other State or Territory. In fact, on a per capita basis, American Samoa continues to receive more Federal funding than almost any other State or Territory,” Faleomavaega said. “In the last two years, federal funding for our health care system has also increased by 50%.”
“These are the facts and Congress is focused on making sure our federal funds are used for their intended purposes. Governor Togiola has inherited a government in need of change and I believe he is committed to making the necessary improvements that will bring about a greater accountability of how federal funds are managed in the Territory. I also believe our Fono is taking a more active role in investigating the misappropriation of federal funds and I commend the Fono for its efforts.”
“As your Representative in Washington, I will continue to work with my colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, to make sure American Samoa continues to receive the federal support and funding it needs. I also remain confident that with due diligence, and with your support and prayers, we can effectively build a government that will benefit our people now and for generations to come,” the Congressman concluded.