Discussion airs on funding do-nothing Fono employees
Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga has signed into law the $1.1 million to fund the operations of the Fono for the remainder of the FIscal Year 2013. This communication was presented before House members on Friday which led to Aua Faipule Faimealelei Anthony Allen to ask where is the Fono getting funding to pay for the additional Fono employees, he has seen — yet their budget is in the red.
According to the supplemental bill the largest allocation of $500,000 goes to personnel costs, followed by lawmakers' allowances of $260,000. Electricity stands at $250,000 and Contractual Services amount to $90,000.
Faimealelei during the house regular session on Friday, noted that one reason why the Fono approved this supplemental was not to cover pay for salaries of the new employees on board.
He explained there were a lot of questions why the Fono needed the supplemental yet the explanation from the Speaker is the Fono budget is in the red because the funding was used to complete the IT building. However, the hiring of additional employees — “where is the funding to pay these new Fono employees?”
Faimealelei then noted that these additional employees are currently being paid by vouchers, and have high salaries. He did not explain further.
(Samoa News understands there are five new employees and some are being paid $30,000, while others higher.)
The Aua faipule further stated that since he was elected as a lawmaker he has had no knowledge of how the Fono budget is allocated; yet this is an issue that each faipule should have fully understanding.
Faimealelei explained that he does not object to hiring people to work for the Fono, however hire people who have the ability and experience to work for the Legislature and not hire those who just come in sit around and do nothing.
“If the funding used to pay these people would go to paying scientist or other qualified people who can work for the Legislature and assist in the job that lawmakers do I would wholeheartedly support it... yet some Fono employees just clock in and just sit around doing nothing — this really saddens me,” said Faimealelei.
He stated that anything that comes out of the Fono, senators and representatives are implicated, not those working for the Fono.
Vice Speaker Iaulualo Talia Faafetai, who led the regular session, then intervened pointing out that issues brought forth should be accurate.
Leone Faipule Puletuimalo Dick Koko stated that Faimealelei should have not discussed this matter and include other faipules in his comments. Instead, he said, the Aua faipule should’ve met with the Speaker and they could spoken directly about this issue.
Tualauta Rep Florence Vaili Saulo noted that Faimealelei should’ve been patient on this issue and met with the Speaker first.
Rep Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava said he was shocked with Faimealelei raising this issue, yet the governor had already signed off on this supplemental. “This matter should have been asked during budget hearing for the Fono, this shouldn’t be discussed during sessions... it appears it’s a personal matter.”
However, Pago Pago Rep Vaamua Henry Sesepasara and Eastside Rep Puleleiite Li’amatua Tufele Jr commended Faimealelei for his boldness in bringing such a controversial issue before the House members.
Vaamua stated that despite that each faipule has their own understanding of the matter, and it could not be discussed during the budget hearings because its the budget for the new fiscal year, yet the matter at hand comes from the current FY.
The Vice Speaker said that while the issue at hand is a reality, this matter should have been discussed during the hearing for the $1.1 million supplemental. before the Governor signed off on this bill.
Not answered during the House discussion last Friday was whether or not the 5 or so new employees pay packages are a part of the supplemental budget signed by the governor last week, and if indeed they are being paid by direct payment vouchers as Faimealelei alleged.
Paying employees through such vouchers was one of the issues Governor Lolo brought up during his discussion of the current Fono budget over runs. He stated in a letter sent out to Dr. Falema’o Phil Pili Treasurer, Human Resources Director Sonny Thompson and Budget Director Cathy Dora Aigamaua-Saelua, last month (August) that until the mitigating plan is approved (that’s the Fono only supplemental budget), allowed expenditures will only be the salaries and monthly allowances of the Senators and Representatives, along with salaries of staff that are officially on the government payroll system.
He wrote, “Employees paid through payment vouchers are not to be processed. All other expenses will not be paid until the Supplemental Appropriation is approved.
Lolo specified in his letter, “These Fono employees who are being paid by vouchers must have their paper work processed through the Department of Human Resources.”
The governor also sought a report detailing Legislative expenditure requests which have not been paid, along with the list of all Legislative Staff, including those on personal service contracts and those individuals who are being paid through vouchers.
It is not known if such a report was given to the governor, and his letter seems to indicate employees paid through payment vouchers would resume once the supplemental budget was approved. On the other hand, Lolo also states that Fono employees being paid in such a manner “must” be processed through the Human Resources department.
The governor’s dislike of the direct payment voucher is well known, and just last week he ordered that direct payment vouchers are not be used to pay employees of ASG, and indicated the government would do away with the use of these vouchers altogether. As it stands, he said only the governor or the acting governor will have the authority to approve direct payment vouchers until the backlog is cleared — this would include payouts of other expenses. Lolo said this policy was effective September 1st.
However, Samoa News should point out that Lolo’s policy is for the Executive Branch of the government only, with the Legislative (Fono) branch leaders setting their own policies — according to statute.
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