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ASG payroll for this Friday not a sure thing

Gov. Togiola Tulafono has publicly advised government workers regarding the possibility of not getting their paychecks at the end of the week  if there is not sufficient revenue in the government’s coffer for this expenditure.

Speaking on his weekend radio program, Togiola says he was advised last week by the Treasury Department about a drop in customs revenues which places the government's payroll in jeopardy. He said the payroll is to be distributed this Friday instead of next Monday - which is the Martin Luther King Day holiday.

A government official told Samoa News that employees paid by local revenues expect to be affected by the governor’s statement. The government’s payroll is just over $4 million every two weeks for both local and federal funding.

According to the governor, this is the time of the year when customs revenue collection drops.

Additionally, the 2% wage tax that went into effect in March last year expired Dec. 31, meaning another $1.5 million decrease in revenue, putting the government in the same financial difficulty it faced at this time last year, said Togiola.

The governor also points out that there were three pay periods in December, squeezing further the limited revenues for the government heading into January of the new year. He says that he has been advised by the Treasurer that if sufficient funds are not available, there is the possibility the government may not be able to make their payroll.

The governor’s statement comes just weeks after he said on a radio program that he was informed by the Treasurer of increased revenue collection and had therefore given the approval for Treasury to pay out in January this year increments for ASG employees in the executive branch.

Then in a Dec. 20 executive order, the governor stated in part that executive branch employees “eligible to receive a step-increment increase shall be granted one step-increment increase, provided that it was included in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget of the employee’s department or agency.”

Togiola revealed the possible problem with payroll when responding to a caller wanting to know why employees of Treasury’s Customs division didn’t get their overtime pay last Friday as promised, adding that there are sufficient funds available to pay the overtime.

The governor said he was not aware of the Customs overtime issue, but would look into the matter and report back on the next radio program.

He also said that he does not want to mix the overtime issue for Customs with what he told directors during a cabinet meeting last Friday, which is — that overtime hours being held up by a department without advising the governor’s office, will be off-set with taking time off.

For example, if a person has eight hours overtime, that person takes a full day off to off-set the overtime hours, he said, adding that this is the same policy when it comes to compensatory or “comp” time.

(Samoa News notes that one of the problems with paying overtime, as stated by the governor, is that overtime hourly compensation does not equal regular hourly compensation, i.e. an overtime hour under federal law must be paid as time and a half, based on the employees pay rate. This means that 8 hours overtime is equal to 12 hours of regular time, and must be paid as such, which means the worker should get a 'full day and a half off'.

In other words, if the employee has 16 hours of overtime, then this person is entitled to 3 "full days off to offset the overtime hours." Under federal law, this is also the case with comp time.

Samoa News understands that the LBJ Medical Center recently went through an audit that identified this problem — paying overtime with comp time, but at the regular hourly rate, not overtime rate. LBJ was ordered to reimburse its employees the hours or pay they were shorted.)