Campaign season: Politics and the Small Village Fund
Gov. Togiola Tulafono believes that it’s the campaign season for the 2012 General Election which prompted lawmakers to add more money to the Small Village/Water Fund than necessary, and although it was affected by his line-item veto, he hopes to restore this program funding.
The governor’s comments were made on his weekend radio program, responding to a caller who inquired about the village fund program because her family has been checking on funding status for her small family project.
Togiola says the Small Village/Water Fund is administered by the Office of Samoan Affairs, which receives many requests for funds, and the OSA sets plans based on what’s available in the account.
However, he said in the current fiscal year 2013, there are no funds available, because it was affected by his line-item veto when the Fono added more money for the program than what was proposed by the administration.
The governor said that because it’s campaign season, additional money was given to the program by the Fono. He said it was a huge increase.
The administration had proposed $100,000 in FY 2013 but the Fono added $140,000.
In his reply to the Fono on the approved FY 2013 budget, Togiola said the excess allocated by the Fono came with no information or reasoning for proposing the increase.
“Allowing a 140% increase to the budget of any department, agency, project or fund without particulars or any explanation is unsound and unwise budget policy,” he explained.
Because of the importance of this fund, Togiola said he will work to ensure that a supplemental appropriation is submitted to the Fono to restore the $100,000.
It's unclear if restoring this program funding will be included in the special session that the governor plans to call for Oct. 22.
Lawmakers raised the importance of the Village/Water Fund during last month’s budget hearing for the Department of Local Government (Office of Samoan Affairs). A handful of lawmakers said this is important to villages and families seeking assistance, but only $100,000 is being proposed, which may not be enough to cover the financial needs for the fiscal year.
Rep. Larry Sanitoa concurred with his colleagues, saying that his Tualauta county is appreciative of this program, and asked Samoan Affairs Secretary Lefiti Pese how much additional funds are needed.
Lefiti replied that if the Fono can request Budget Office director Malemo Tausaga for maybe an additional $100,000 — that would be very helpful. He also suggested a possible $50,000 reserve in case of emergencies, especially when the territory is affected by heavy rain and high winds.