Lawmakers shocked to hear of Fono budget overrun
Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga is proposing a $1.1 million Supplemental Appropriations Budget bill to fund the operations of the Legislature. The appropriations supplemental was revealed in Lolo's letter to Fono leaders last week Friday. Samoa News understands Fono leaders and lawmakers were shocked upon reading in the Friday paper the governor is proposing another supplemental appropriation bill for the Fono — alone.
One lawmaker who wished not to be named, told Samoa News Fono leaders were shocked and are unclear as to where ASG came up with their figures for the proposed budget. The lawmaker said that — to his understanding — to date, the Fono does have money, given that the Fono leaders have been keen on monitoring Fono spending.
Earlier last week, the governor moved to suspend the processing of future Legislative Fiscal Year 2013 expenses, noting that in light of the chronic deficit position of the Fono’s FY 2013 budget, there is a need for intervention, and therefore, the processing of all Legislative expenditures has been suspended until the Supplemental Budget Appropriation is approved.
Samoa News understands Fono leaders are to meet with the governor today on this matter.
In his letter last Friday, the governor pointed out that with the previous Supplemental Appropriation an additional $500,00 for the Fono was added to the FY 2013 and it’s now projected the Legislature will overrun its current budget of $6.7 million by an additional $1.1 million.
Lolo explained through improved efforts by the Tax office and the Customs Division of Treasury, the government has been able to identify increased revenues from corporate taxes and excise taxes beyond the original FY 2013 budget projections. “These provide the source of funding to cover the overrun on the Legislature’s budget," Lolo wrote.
Corporate taxes were originally estimated at $12,633,000 but the revised estimates now stand at $13,112,000 — of which $479,000 is available for appropriation. Excise taxes were originally estimated to be $19.1 Million, but the revised estimates show the amount to be $19.7 Million, of which $621,000 is available for appropriations.
“While I fully respect the separation of powers that governs the relationship between our branches of government, as we move into the 2014 fiscal year, I encourage the Legislature to be mindful of the importance of managing its expenses in order to remain within its projected budget."
The governor continued, "In these difficult economic times, we all need to work together in order to endure the health and well-being of the government’s financial affairs.”
According to the proposed supplemental, the original budget for the Fono for FY 2013 was $6.2 million and with the previous Supplemental Appropriation an additional $500,000 was added.
It’s now projected the Fono will overrun its current budget of $6.7million by an additional $1.1million.
The proposed supplemental bill for the Fono alone itemizes the allocations as follows:
$500,000 for personnel services
$260,000 for allowances
$90,000 for contractual services
$250,000 for electricity
Currently, there are a number of bills before the Legislature, including the confirmation of directors and members of boards and Commissions, and the FY 2014 proposed budget requires the legislature’s timely attention, says the letter.
The lawmaker, who spoke to Samoa News, pointed out that in the current budget for the Fono there is no funding allocated for contractual services as indicated in the proposed supplemental.
However, Fono expenses listed in Fono ledgers for the first 4- 5 months of its FY 2013 budget, indicate that the “Other Contractual Services” category for the House was for $12,000 to PT & Associates; for the Senate $14,000 (however $10,000 of this was to a travel agency, while the balance of $4,000 was paid to PT & Associates).
An additional $12,000/ at $4,000 per item, then shows up for the same company in the “Repairs & Maintenance Supplies” category, in the Senate ledger, while an additional $8,000/ at $4,000 per item, is found in the R&M supplies category in the House ledger to the same company.
PT & Associates is a consultant company co-owned by the Governor’s Executive Assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira and the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Minnie Tuia. It is unknown at this time if the company continues to do work for the Fono.
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