Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is disappointed with the 2004 annual report submitted by the Territorial Audit Office (TAO).
“In 1985, to assist the Governor in developing a sound financial management plan within the Territory, the American Samoa Fono passed a law to provide for the Office of Territorial Auditor, with detailed and specific procedures for handling audits, especially when dealing with any agency or department under the administration of the Governor,” Faleomavaega said.
“The Territorial Auditor is mandated by law to submit an annual report detailing in writing his disagreements – along with his recommendations – to the Governor and Attorney General for prosecution of anyone or group which may have violated local law. This annual report is to be made public and to be submitted to the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House and the Governor.”
“Although I requested a copy of this report several weeks ago, it was received in my office on January 27, 2005. The report is only 5 pages long and I am disappointed that the TAO did not take this work more seriously. In my opinion, I believe a work of this importance deserves more attention than can be provided in a 5 page report,” Faleomavaega said.
“In fact, when our local government passed a law to provide for the Office of Territorial Auditor and mandated by law that the TAO submit an annual report, I believe the expectation was that ASG would be provided with a work of substance which it could use to more effectively manage federal funds and improve local government operations. This is why the 2004 TAO annual report is so disappointing. There’s just not much ASG or the public can do with a 5 page report that barely says anything.”
“While the TAO states in its report that it will continue to produce the best quality and volume of work that can be done in the circumstances, I would like to suggest that the TAO begin by citing specific examples and including pertinent details in its annual report. For instance, in its 2004 annual report, the TAO states that it made recommendations to different government agencies but the TAO does not state what these recommendations were.”
“The TAO states that it filed reports with the USDOE but the TAO did not include these in its annual report. The TAO states that the ASDOE agreed to make corrections in the area of procurement but the TAO does not state what corrections needed to be made or what weaknesses it found.”
“Regarding unannounced cash counts, the TAO says employees at various government agencies were not complying with policies and procedures but the TAO does not state what policies and procedures were violated. In other words, the TAO’s annual report is vague. It lacks substance. It lacks details. It lacks examples, and no one but the TAO is to be blamed for submitting a report this thin,” the Congressman said.
“Given the seriousness of fiscal management, I respectfully request that our Fono conduct an oversight hearing on the TAO’s 2004 annual report. More specifically, I hope the Fono will have the Territorial Auditor explain what prompted him to raise the issue of weak audit laws with Department of Interior officials when he failed to cite specific violations of local law in his 2004 report.”
“I also hope that in the future the TAO will provide ASG with a report worthy of its office and I want to be perfectly clear about this. I fully support the TAO and its mandate to audit the various departments and agencies of the local government.”
“I believe independent audits are crucial to establishing a government free of corruption. This is why the TAO’s annual report should be comprehensive. This is also the reason that neither ASG nor the public should accept or settle for a TAO report that makes a mockery of the auditing process by summarizing its yearly activities in 5 pages or less. The people of American Samoa deserve better than this.”
“We deserve to know how both our local and federal dollars are being managed and spent by the local government and the public also deserves a detailed accounting of TAO activities. Again, while the TAO says it is doing the best it can under the circumstances, only the TAO can be blamed for failing to cite specific violations of local law in its annual report and only the TAO can be blamed for failure to include specific recommendations which could be used to improve local government operations.”
“It my understanding that the annual operating budget for TAO is approximately $255,000. If the TAO needs more money to carry out its responsibilities, then the TAO should raise this as an issue in its annual report. The Fono may also want to review this matter. But budget constraints or not, I remain hopeful that the Fono will make it clear to the TAO that it will never again accept a 5-page write-up that fails to meet the expectations of mandated law. I also remain confident that our local leaders will do everything they can to improve the effectiveness of the Territory’s audit laws,” the Congressman concluded.