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Senate expense report shows questionable payments to vendors and employees

reporters@samoanews.com

The numbers are in and there are some questionable payments noted on the detailed list of expenses for the Senate between October 2012 and February 2013. Samoa News has obtained a copy of the expense reports for the local Legislature, which shows hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of travel expenses, “protocol” charges, payments for services rendered, questionable “maintenance and service” fees to local companies.
 
Furthermore, there are a number of employees that are being paid big bucks, upwards of $30,000-  $50,000 annually, but questions loom as to what exactly their roles are at the Fono. For example, former Senator and gubernatorial candidate Te’o J. Fuavai received two payments of $1,730.40 in both October and November 2012. When December rolled around, the amount of the payments stayed the same but instead of two checks, he received four checks of $1,730.40 each ($6,921.60 for that month alone).
 
He received one more payment of $1,730.40 in January 2013 before the payments increased to $1,923.20 on January 29 and again on February 12 and 27. Altogether, Te’o racked up $21,343.20 from the Senate between October 9 and February 27, 2013. At this rate, if he continues to receive two checks per month for $1,923.20 each (which is assumed to be his bi-weekly salary) within a year’s time, he would have received over $52,000— arguably triple and even quadruple what the majority of government employees (notably teachers) earn annually.
 
In addition, to Te’o, the report also notes that Mika Kelemete Jr., received $1056 two times a month since October 2012 except for December 2012 when he received three checks of $1056 each. The report notes that on October 17, 2012, Kelemete received $165 for airfare to Apia, Samoa and an extra check of $1020 for per diem. On that same date, Senate President Gaoteote Palaie Tofau also received checks for the same amount for travel to Apia and per diem, although he received two extra payments of $600 for a rental car and $3,500 for “protocol”.
 
Based on the numbers, Kelemete will be receiving an annual salary of over $27,000 not including travel perks. Samoa News understands Kelemete is the Senate President’s assistant, and runs his errands as needed.
 
(In 2008, Kelemete, a former warden at the Territorial Correctional Facility, was sentenced along with Corrections Officer Siaumau Mapu by a federal court in Honolulu for their roles in separate incidents involving the physical assaults of inmates five years earlier in 2003. Kelemete was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment. Mapu received a sentence of 39 months. After their release from prison, both men were to be on federal supervised release for three years. The Department of Justice website states that during his guilty plea on Aug. 15, 2007, Kelemete admitted that in August 2003, he ordered two corrections officers to remove an inmate from his cell and bring the inmate to the center of the facility where he was handcuffed to a pole. At that point, Kelemete picked up a board and struck the inmate on his head and his back until the board broke.)
 
Another employee on the Senate payroll is former senator and attorney Aumoeualogo Salanoa Soli who, based on the bi-monthly checks of $1,923.20 he receives, is slated to receive more than $50,000 in payments this year.
 
On other payroll expenses, the report shows that senators receive approximately $1,153.84 every non-pay week for “office supplies” except for Senate President Gaoteote who earns $1568.46 (this is their allowance as passed into law), aside form their regular paychecks every government payday Mondays. Between November 14, 2012 and February 19, 2013, the Senate spent approximately $154,754.46 on “Fono Office Supplies.”
 
The report also notes a payment of $2,884.80 to Afuola Nanai for “services rendered” on February 27, 2013 and another payment of $4,515.16 on February 21, 2013 to Alosio Akeli for “other employee benefits.”
 
(Samoa News understands that it is possible that Aumoeualogo, Te’o and Afuola Nanai are ‘cultural advisors’ to the Senate, but there is no contract or payroll note attached to the payments indicating their work status.)
 
Another interesting expense is the Fono’s gas expense for its vehicles. A reliable source from the Motor Pool Division says the Fono does not use gas coupons/vouchers to fill up their vehicles like all other government vehicles. Instead, Fono vehicles can be seen at the A&T Service Station in Nu’uuli to gas up.
 
This would tie in with the report noting that $19,200 was paid out to A&T Service Station in Nu’uuli between November 2012 and January 2013.
 
On November 7, 2012, the Senate paid out $3,200 to the company for “repair and maintenance”; less than three weeks later, another check in the amount of $5,000 was paid out to A&T Service Station for “Other Miscellaneous Expenses”; on December 12, 2012 two separate checks in the amounts of $4,000 and $2,000 were issued to that same business and noted as “operating supplies”; and in January 29, 2013 another check in the amount of $5,000 was issued to A&T Service Station under “operating supplies, fuel”.
 
A&T Service Station in Nu’uuli is currently owned and operated by the Tuia family. The gas station was formerly leased and run by the Alo Stevenson family, but was returned to the Tuia family in late February 2012, after the lease expired.
 
A curious Senate expense is listed under “Food For Human Consumption,” and the name Solia, Fofoga (who according to Fono sources works in the Legislative Finance Office) appears numerous times for payments totaling $46,756.50
 
Breakdown for this expense is: two checks totaling $17,500 for November 2012, another two checks totaling $4,027.75 for December 2012, and four checks amounting to $22,628.75 for January 2013. Also listed under the same category was a payment of $800 for a car rental and $1,800 for airfare for February 2013.
 
That same month, under “Repair and Maintenance” a payment for $1454.97 was also issued to Solia. Last October, two checks totaling $26,000 for “Protocol expenses” were also issued to Solia. A source at the Fono says she believes the checks are made out to Solia who cashes them and then uses the funds to pay for things approved by the Fono’s leaders, in this case, the Senate President.
 
Another expense that raises eyebrows is the December 10, 2012 payment to Insel Fehmarn Hotel for “Repair and Maintenance” in the amount of $1,500.
 
Other expenses listed include:
 
PT & Associates, a company co-owned by the Governor’s Executive Assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira and Minnie Tuia. It received two payments of $4,000 each in October 2012, and $4,000 every month thereafter except January 2013.
 
Tuia Enterprise also received a payment of $1,325.81 for “Repair and Maintenance” on October 23, 2012.
 
Mabuhay Travel was paid $10,000 on October 12, 2012 for “Other Contractual Services” although the company received separate checks for all travel that was billed to the Senate. There is no explanation on the report as to what the separate $10,000 was for.
 
Altogether, according to the expense report, between October 2012 and February 2013, the Senate spent:
 
•        $479,601.04 for “regular time”
              •         $1,942.31 for “overtime”
              •         $28,141.36 for “holiday pay”
              •          $7,951.20 for “sick leave”
              •          $14,890.38 for “annual leave”
              •           $40,660.93 for “FICA - Employer’s Share”
              •           $14,730.66 for “Retirement - Employer’s Share”
              •           $5,732.44 for “Workers’ Comp”
              •           $112,988.94 for “Other Employee Benefits”
              •           $2,734.11 for “Office Supplies”
              •           $159,773.65 for “Fono Office Supplies”
              •           $7,060 for “Operating Supplies”
              •           $5,000 for “Fuel”
              •            $124,848.28 for “Food for Human Consumption”
              •            $108,593.22 for “Repair and Maintenance Supplies”
              •            $14,000 for “Other Contractual Services”
              •            $8,707.32 for “Communications”
              •            $2,501.91 for “Hotels, Restaurants, etc.”
              •            $40,000 for “Protocol Expenses”
              •            $6,593.00 for “Other Miscellaneous Expenditures”
•            $104,810.13 for “Off Island Travel”
•            $675 for “Manu’a Local Travel”      
The grand total for the Senate for the four-month period is $1,291,935.88
 
(The Samoa News will continue its report on the Fono’s spending in subsequent issues)



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