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Senate Prez hires finance officer to monitor budget

joy@samoanews.com

Due to the overspending of Fono funds in previous years, Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie has decided to hire his own Finance Officer for the Senate, so he can “closely monitor the Senate’s budget”.
 
Gaoteote told Samoa News the Senate’s new Chief Financial Officer is Tagaloa Toloa Letuli, while the Legislative Finance Officer Talalemotu Mauga will be working with the Speaker of the House to oversee the budget for the House of Representatives. He said Toloa is an experienced finance person who was hired last year October when the former Deputy LFO left due to internal issues, which he cannot discuss.
 
The Senate President said the Deputy LFO position will not be filled, and instead, he has hired Toloa to work directly with the Senate’s finances. He also explained the former Deputy LFO’s salary was close to $65,000 yet Toloa is paid only half of that. “We are trying to eliminate unnecessary spending by hiring the right people,” said Gaoteote.
 
He said the positive outcome of this move is that the Senate has its own Finance person, which led to the Senate’s budget being closely monitored, and as a result they were able to save over $100,000 for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2014, which the Senate President says is “remarkable.”
 
According to the Senate’s first quarter report for FY 2014, $112,828 was left.
 
In the latest report to the Senate president from LFO Talalemotu, dated January 15, 2014, the budget for FY 2014 for the Senate alone is listed as $2.60 million, with it’s First Quarter Allotments noted as $710,000 (this is the amount the Senate was budgeted to spend in its First Quarter of FY 2014).
 
First Quarter expenditures (Oct. 1, 2013- Dec. 31, 2013) were $597,672, indicating the balance of $112, 828.
 
The financial report states, “Based on the financial data from Treasury and as I predicted in November 2013, I am pleased to inform you that the Senate shows substantial savings of $112K or 15% of the 1st Quarter budget apportionments for fiscal year 2014. All object classes are in the black, with Personnel Services having the biggest cushions of $65,501.”
 
A breakdown is included in the report:
 
Division       1st Qtr Budget      Expenditures to Date      1st Qtr Remaining Bal
 
Personnel Services                           $453,000            $387, 499            $65,501
 
Allowances (Mats,Supplies)            $137,500            $114,825            $22,675
 
Materials and Supplies                    $15,000            $9,315            $5,685
 
Contractual Services                       $10,000            $3,168            $6,832
 
Travel                                                $70,000            $69,804            $196
 
All Others                                         $25,000            $13,061            $11,939
 
(Samoa News should point out that there is no breakdown of the expenses, other than in their categories or ‘object classes’. However, Samoa News notes two of the three senators that passed away last year (2013) were not replaced until the 2nd Quarter of FY 2014, which began Jan. 01, 2014, and would account for some of the savings indicated in the Personnel Services and Allowances, which are the Office Allowances for the senators of $30,000 each per year. )
 
The report is cc’d to Letuli Toloa, Senate Financial Officer and Alfred Annandale, Computer Analyst (LFO)
 
Asked about recent new hires at the Fono, which includes former House Speaker, Port Director, Matagi Ray McMoore, the Senate President told Samoa News Matagi was hired to replace the late Lauti Simona, who passed away last year. Matagi’s duty at the Fono is that of translator.
 
“Lauti was paid $35,000 and I hired Matagi on a $25,000 salary, again saving money for the Fono,” Gaoteote said.
 
He further stated that another position in the Senate office is held by Te’o Fuavai, who is his advisor, as was the late Nanai Afuola, who recently passed, he was Senate president’s second advisor.
 
Asked if the vacant position held by Nanai would be filled any time soon, Gaoteote said it’s too soon to tell, meanwhile Te’o is seen inside the Fono gallery during regular sessions.
 
(Samoa News archives show Senate ledgers for the First Quarter of FY 2013 indicated both Te’o and Afuola were on the Senate’s payroll, averaging more than $1,500 per pay period. Te’o was listed as “Other Employee”, while Afuola’s compensation was noted as “Services Rendered”.)
 
BACKGROUND
 
In March 2009, Samoa News reported that then Governor Togiola Tulafono had appointed former House member Tagaloa Toloa Letuli to coordinate the allocation of the $3 million for the three districts of American Samoa.
 
The $3 million was requested by the administration and approved by the Fono in December. During the House review of the measure, there was no clear indication as to who would administer this money, and it was suspected at the time it would be the Office of Samoan Affairs.
 
However, during a cabinet meeting, in March 2009,Togiola announced the appointment of Tagaloa to coordinate allocation of this money, which was the subject of many House complaints as faipule argued there was not enough of the $20 million retirement loan left to cover this expense. Despite complaints, a law was passed that the three districts would receive $1 million each for their capital improvement projects.
 
Togiola said at the time, that in 2008 there were more than a few projects in the far reaches of the district that would revitalize villages with a fraction of the funds that are required under major capital improvement projects.
 
Samoa News has since reported on the $1 million each for the three districts (East, West and Manu’a), where a lot of the money was used for other than capital improvement projects — such as to purchase a fautasi and travel to various events, such as Samoa’s Flag Day and the Arts Festival held in the Solomons.



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