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MAF Finance Officer awarded East-West Center ProGov Fellowship

As Samoa continues to be blessed with financial assistance from donor partners to help support economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, a scholarship beneficiary from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) who is pursuing a Master of Science in Finance hopes to improve the financial systems and processes for better transparency, accuracy and accountability of transactions in the use of donor funds. 

Moia Ofeira Sulu Afoa is the Principal Financial Management Officer under the Agriculture Sector Coordination Division (ASCD) within the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF).

She is the first recipient from Samoa to be awarded the prestigious East-West Center PROJECT Governance Fellowship (ProGov Fellowship) and is currently undertaking studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa for twelve months.

The 30-year-old is from the villages of Vaisala, Sataua, Vaitele – Uta,Vaitele – Fou, Moamoa and Leauva’a – Uta. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce double majors in accounting and economics from the National University of Samoa (NUS) where she also received the Afualo Fa’amoetauloa Dr Wood Salele Award for being the top student in Bachelor of Commerce in April 2014.This year she completed her studies at the University of the South Pacific (USP) for a Postgraduate diploma in Commerce majoring in Economics. 

Mrs Afoa acknowledged God for this great opportunity to explore more knowledge in the field of Finance at the Master’s level. 

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. God always directs his perfect plan for each and every one of us in His perfect timing,” she said. 

“I look forward to gaining more knowledge and skills from the Master of Science in Finance offered at the University of Hawaii, Manoa at the Shidler Business College. It’s also a great opportunity to share Samoa’s experience in how we operate our government financial system and processes.”

“In addition we can look at utilizing some of their systems and process to improve transactions and manual operations in our digital financial system processes especially in the Agriculture and Fisheries Sector.”

“I am also keen on meeting with our East West Center communities’ colleagues, including other Pacific Islanders who were awarded in project governance funded by USAID and University Hawaii Manoa at the Shidler Business College.”

In her role as ASCD Principal Finance Officer, Mrs Afoa was responsible for managing all financial aspects of the project and worked closely with technical divisions in particular the Centralized Technical Services Support Unit (CTSSU). Her role also includes preparations of the annual budget and budget forecasts (MTEF) and the preparation of annual project financial statements for audit.

Mrs Afoa feels both challenged and blessed to have earned such a rich experience with government projects across the sectors while being in her current role.  

In her view, the experience and challenges are an inspiration for her to continue working in this area and pursue further studies to further empower her to serve the people of Samoa.

She explained that the crucial involvement of Financial Management is to ensure best practices are in place during the implementation, planning and monitoring of donor funds in order

to comply with donor financing agreements, government regulation and instructions as well as preparation of accurate financial analysis report for audit inspection undertaken by the Audit Office.

“The challenges with such project activities are due to a very high volume of transactions and with manual practice, it sometimes leads to inaccuracy of data and delays. However the contribution of the Information and Technology (IT) sector does assist with this gap by implementing digital financial systems to aid in government processes for transparency and provide accurate analysis and financial reports.”

While speaking about some of her work experiences, she highlighted that managing and monitoring budget and finances for significant projects such as the Samoa Agriculture & Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project (SAFPROM) and Pacific Islands Rural Agriculture Stimulus (PIRAS) was a challenging experience for her.

“The sheer volume of transactions and detailed analysis needed for reporting purposes under these major projects was challenging especially because everything was implemented manually, from individual transaction to raising requisition forms, disbursements process, payments process, reconciliation, and developing financial reporting analysis.”

“However these challenges are lessons learned on my end to help find new solutions and with the development of digital systems like the E-voucher system, AgriTouch app and Kobo Tool Box apps designed by SkyEye Pacific and Delivery Associate Consultant, Tooa Brown – the management of these systems and processes have become easier and resulted in more accurate financial information.”

Mrs Afoa also credits strong team work as one of the main reasons why she was able to overcome the challenges successfully and she believes that this experience will help her in the next part of her journey.

The Principal Financial Management Officer also thanked the Government through the Minister of Foreign Affair and Trade (MFA, Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa for accepting the funding assistance through the Blue Alliance Pacific Project – Project Governance for Samoa.

She also acknowledged the US Government through the USAID and the Blue Alliance Pacific Project – Project Governance, East West Centre for funding this program award and coordination to support pacific island students in preparation of all logistics travelling on board.

Mrs Afoa also thanked the MAF ASCD ACEO Dr Ramona Stephanie O’Conner and NUS HOD Management, and Hospitality Leasiolagi Tapu Iemaima Gabriel. 

“Thank you for your great support in pushing our students to explore knowledge and skills through scholarship opportunities in any field of studies and to Dr Ramona Sulifoa, thank you for never giving up on your staff to achieve success.”

“I’ve been taught a lot of great strategies and received advice to help achieve great blessings inmy professional and academic journey. Thank you to MAF and the Ministry’s CEO for the great experience and supporting staff to proceed for further studies in the USA. I’m very grateful to my ASCD family for the incredible teamwork and efforts to support each other in our professional journeys.”

“To my spiritual parents and family–EFKS Vaitele Uta, Katoliko Leauvaa Uta-Leualesi,  Katoliko Moamoa Tai, thank you for your never ending prayers that have been following your church family to protect and be blessed along their life journey.

“My parents Sulu and Uaite Maninoa Malaemoli Afoa Ah Ching and Telesia Afoa & Late Afoa Sanele Afoa,for the never ending sacrifices and prayers.

“Grandparents – Vaepule Malaemoli & Siera Ah Ching, late Maninoa Fuifui Maninoa and Failelei Maninoa for prayers and great encouragement and lesson words to never give up and be successful through their life journey. 

“My dearest husband Fritz Afoa, son Ioane Afoa, brother Talavou and Uncle Vou for your sacrifices and continuous support and an immense gratitude to all of my family and friends who have supported this journey.”

The PROJECT Governance Graduate Fellowship program (ProGov Fellowship) is designed to support promising young leaders from Pacific Island countries by awarding a one-year professional degree at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in the fields of finance, information systems, or law.  

ProGov Fellows will have the opportunity to participate in PROJECT Governance activities and contribute to creating a stronger Blue Pacific, both during and after their professional studies at the University of Hawai’i.

PROJECT Governance is a partnership of the East-West Center, The Pacific Community, CARE, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, and USAID-funded by the American People. 



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