SOLIAI BELIEVES SMALL AGENCIES AND DEPARTMENTS SHOULD COMBINE
Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono has called for small government departments and offices to be combined thereby reducing the number of these entities and making it easier for the Fono to conduct its work during the yearly budget review.
Soliai’s comments were made this week during the Fono joint budget committee hearing for the Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs, whose budget questions were answered by ASG Budget and Planning Office director Catherine Aigamaua-Saelua.
Because DYWA’s acting director Pa’u Taito Roy Ausage was not present, lawmakers believed Aigamaua-Saelua was the only other appropriate witness to testify.
Soliai told the committee a problem he has seen over the years is that after a gubernatorial race, the person elected governor would assign his people from the campaign to head certain divisions of government and all of a sudden that division ends up being an entity of ASG without proper submission of such entity to the Fono to be established by law.
He says he believes the Fono should look at ways to reduce the government by decreasing the number of agencies and thereby reducing costs. This was also the view of other lawmakers throughout the three weeks of budget hearings in an effort to cut government costs.
Soliai says agencies with about five employees should be combined with other agencies or included as a division of an existing agency. He suggested the Fono leaders make such a recommendation to the executive branch.
Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeao, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, responded by saying that this is an important recommendation.
DYWA’s FY 2014 budget is $640,000 for ten positions compared to $340,000 in FY 2013 with only five positions. For FY 2014, there were two contract positions — the director and deputy directo r— and the rest are career service employees.
DPS BEING ASKED FOR POLICE PRESENCE AFTER SCHOOL
Rep. Florence Vaili Saulo has requested that police officers be present in the areas surrounding Tafuna High School after school, following three straight days of after-school fights outside the school campus.
Saulo made the verbal request during yesterday’s joint budget committee viewing the Department of Public Safety’s fiscal year 2014 budget, where Police Commissioner William Haleck and Deputy Police Commissioner Leseiau Laumoli along with two other DPS officials were present to answer questions.
Saulo says she is very concerned with the safety of the community and the students following these after-school fights and believes the presence of police will deter such acts. Haleck acknowledged the request.
During the same hearing Sen. Magalei Logovi’i asked Haleck for assistance by having police officers work at the crosswalks in front of schools, and to wear reflective jackets, especially on rainy days, for safety reasons.
Magalei said it's very hard to see officers during heavy rains because their uniforms are black and he doesn’t want anyone to end up hitting a police officer by accident because the driver couldn’t see them.
Haleck agreed, saying every day officers are directed to wear their reflective jackets and it's been a challenge for him as director, to make sure those instructions are repeated every day.
DOE PROMISES THAT PAST PROBLEMS WILL NOT OCCUR AGAIN
Education Department director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin Finau has given assurances to lawmakers that the problems with school facilities — particularly cafeterias and bathrooms —that resulted in a two-week delay of the school year, will not happen again.
An inspection by Department of Health found some ten public schools had health and safety problems while a government assessment discovered additional work needed to be done to other school buildings.
The public schools didn’t start until late last month, while corrective measures were implemented.
During a House Education Committee hearing this week, Vaitinasa says DOE is working to ensure these issues do not occur again especially when it caused the delay in beginning the school year.
She assured committee members that a four-member Quality Control team with DOE is charged with conducting inspection of schools territory-wide and reporting to the main office. The team will also work closely with the School Lunch Program division on ensuring all safety and health regulations are met for cafeterias.
The DOE director explained that additional funding is included in the department’s fiscal year 2014 budget to hire bathroom monitors as well as more maintenance personnel for maintaining public school facilities. Currently, there are only 15 workers for the DOE maintenance division.
Vaitinasa thanked the governor for allowing DOE to receive additional funds to ensure the up-keep of all public schools.
Reps. Larry Sanitoa and Florence Vaili Saulo pointed out that schools in their county of Tualauta have the highest student enrollment, and there are many things that need to be done to upgrade these schools.
However, the pair thanked the DOE for all the work done so far to help improve the quality of education, not only for Tualauta students but for everyone in the territory.
FY 2014 BUDGET INCLUDES SUBSIDY FOR FARMERS
Lawmakers have praised the administration for including $150,000 as a government subsidy for local farmers in the fiscal year 2014 budget, as the farmers have long called on ASG to provide such assistance.
During the Department of Agriculture’s fiscal year 2014 budget review, DoA director Lealao Melila Purcell revealed this subsidy is included in the budget under the Special Program budget category.
According to the administration, this subsidy is an incentive to encourage more people to farm different kinds of produce in order to reduce the territory’s dependence on imported goods. “From an economic and financial perspective, funds spent to import fish and agriculture products will stay on island to simulate the economy,” it says.
Under this subsidy proposal, the government and farmers will collaborate to define agriculture activities eligible to receive subsidies.