Speaker says “No Need” for supplemental budget
House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale is adamant they still have funding in the Fono budget — namely $2.9 million — and is disputing the Supplemental Budget of $1.1 million proposed by the government, which explains why this bill has yet to be introduced in the House of Representatives.
The same supplemental budget was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday with a hearing on this matter scheduled for next Monday.
The Speaker told Samoa News the $2.9 million came from the $3 million that the Fono received from the $20 million loan from the Retirement Fund — which was allocated to build a new Fono Building.
“The only money we used from that $3 million was $100,000 to renovate the Fono properties that were damaged in the 2009 tsunami — which is why there’s $2.9 million left.”
Last week, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga wrote to the Fono informing them that he’s proposing a $1.1 million supplemental to fund the operations of the Legislature.
Earlier, 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.
Savali told Samoa News that, to his understanding, and that of the Senate President they have the $2.9 million left in the Fono budget.
The Speaker explained to Samoa News they had an agreement with former governor Togiola Tulafono that expenses incurred by building the Information Technology Building would be taken from the $2.9 million they had in their budget. However when the new administration took over, they charged all the expenses for the IT building to the Fono’s budget, yet this shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
Savali noted that he, along with the Senate President, have met with Governor Lolo on this matter and they’ve discussed the issue at hand, however despite that, “we know for a fact that the Fono has money remaining in the budget.”
Questions sent to Treasurer Dr Falema’o Phil M Pili were not immediately answered as of press time.
Samoa News should point out the balance the Speaker and the Senate President are referring to is not substantiated by any reports on the $20 million dollar loan released by the previous government under Togiola or the present government under Gov. Lolo. Furthermore, whatever the balance of the “new Fono building” funds is — it has been redirected to an ASG emergency reserve account as directed by Gov. Lolo.
In July 2012, Samoa News published a story on a report received in March by the Senate Investigative Committee (SIC) from the ASG Budget Office that showed 16 projects were funded with the $20 million loan money and only $1.21 million was left to be expended.
The report indicated the Fono building was allocated $3 million and only $163,870 was spent, leaving a balance of $2.83 million — but as noted, there was only $1.21Mil left in total loan proceeds.
The report showed the $20 million loan was used to pay such things as the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts and repairs for the ASG tug boat, which resulted in the Marisco Ltd lawsuit.
When the current administration came into office, this year, Samoa News reported in May that Gov. Lolo had directed the Treasury Department to set up an emergency reserve account, with the first funding source to come from the unused money leftover from the government’s $20 million loan with the ASG Employees Retirement Fund.
During a cabinet meeting, Lolo told directors, “There were some questions from the Fono leadership on the money that was assigned to the Fono… So I told them, there are so many unfinished projects.”
Lolo went on to say, “So what we’ve decided — as leaders — is to set aside that money for an emergency fund. And I really appreciate the efforts of the Treasurer to put together that money.”
In other words, there is no balance available to the Fono of their ‘new building’ fund because the loan proceeds have been redirected to the emergency reserve account.
How much went into this account?
Well, an ASG summary report — as of Jan. 31, 2013 — on the $20 million loan received by some lawmakers in February 2013 showed that over $19.03 million was expended, leaving a balance in the fund of only $960,307.40.
The same report showed the Fono had now spent $301,601 of its $3 million allocation, leaving a balance of around $2.69 million.
In his letter to the Fono last Friday, the governor pointed out that the Fono’s FY 2013 budget of $6.7 million is projected to overrun by $1.1 million. The supplemental currently before the Fono amounts to this projected overrun.
Rhonda Annesley contributed to this story
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