FONO ADJOURNS FOR TWO WEEKS
The Senate and House of Representatives have voted unanimously to adjourn for two weeks. Both Senate and House approved the Concurrent resolution allowing both sides to adjourn yesterday and reconvene on July 30, 2012. The motion to adjourn came about because the Fono has yet to receive the government’s FY 2013 budget from the Budget Office.
Samoa News reported in its June 19 issue that the government’s budget call letter for fiscal year 2013 — which begins on Oct. 1, 2012 — went out to all ASG departments and entities from Malemo Tausaga, director of the ASG Office of Program Planning and Budget with the approval of Gov. Togiola Tulafono and was dated June 13.
According to Malemo, final budget submission was due at 4 p.m. on June 29 at his office. In the call letter, a revised budget ceiling for FY 2013 was given to each ASG department and entity because of anticipated additional new revenues, which were not identified.
The budget law signed last year by the governor for FY 2012 totaled $383.2 million.
The FY 2013 budget was noted as the top priority item for Fono review, debate and approval during the fourth and final session of the 32nd Legislature when it reconvened.
SENATE GOV’T OPERATIONS TO HOLD HEARINGS FRIDAY
Chairman of the Government Operations Committee, Senator Velega announced during the Senate regular session that despite the adjournment of the Fono for two weeks, this will not halt the duties of the committee and it will have three hearings on Friday.
He said the first hearing pertains to the elderly citizens at the Territorial Administration on Aging (TAOA) office. Velega said he understands the federal funding involved has been terminated and he wants to know how many elderly citizens are to be laid off and how much federal money is involved.
As Samoa News reported on Monday, of the 72 senior citizens who are scheduled to be laid off from TAOA, not all will be laid off immediately, according to TAOA Director Fa’afiti Tauanu’u, as they have not completed their 48 months of employment under the Senior Citizens employment program.
Tauanu’u explained that the Department of Labor rules which went into effect in 2007 require that senior citizens hired under Title 5, must be terminated from the program after serving 48 months. He added that layoffs are also due to the limited funding the TAOA office receives for assistance.
The second hearing for Government Operations will be with the Department of Education.
On Tuesday Senator Fuata Dr I’atala voiced his concern about the water conditions of the school in Aunu’u. Fuata said water for the students was hand carried from Auasi when the school was in session due to a pipeline problem — water could not reach the school, which continues to be the case.
He added this is the perfect time to address this problem given that it’s summer, however there is not much time left, as school begins next month. Fuata asked the Education Committee for assistance pertaining to this issue.
Velega noted that DOE Deputy Director of Finance Russ Aab is the witness in the Aunu’u school matter. He also wants a representative from Territorial office of Fiscal Reform (TOFR) present, to see if there can be any assistance from the Department of Interior for the water problems at the Aunu’u school.
The Government Operations committee’s final hearing is with the Port Administration on the status of the MV Sili.
Velega noted that he seeks to have a representative from the Shipyard present, and wants to know the status of the MV Sili given that this is how goods are shipped to the residents of Manu’a.
Co-Chairperson of the committee, Senator Fonoti Tafa’ifa Aufata said it came to her that the priorities of the Government Operations committee are mainly for developing the government, not investigating the government.
She said that is why the SSIC (Senate Selective Investigative Committee) was established — to investigate wrongdoing within the government.
Senate President Gaoteote Palaie interrupted and first made it clear that it’s not SSIC— it’s SIC (Senate Investigative Committee).
He then explained that each Senate Standing Committee has a purpose and they also carry out hearings.
“If the committee comes to a stall point, given that they have limited authority, then the SIC steps in,” he said.
The issue regarding the ASPA budget authority was brought up again in the Senate yesterday by Senator Lualemaga Faoa, who says he is saddened that Senate President Gaoteote Palaie and House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale have yet to file the matter pertaining to ASPA with the court.
Lualemaga said it’s close to the budget hearings and yet they are still unclear on the situation with regard to ASPA’s budget. He said the only option he sees is to take the matter to court to determine who is accurate.
Senator Galea’i Tu’ufuli supported Lualemaga’s opinion that this should be taken to court for clarity. Galea’i reiterated that he sought assistance from Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin to clarify which entity has final say over the ASPA budget — the Fono as the legislature believes — or the ASPA board as ASPA is contending.
According to Galea’i, the congressman upholds the Fono belief that the autonomy in budgeting that ASPA is asking for does not conform to the law.
Galea’i told senators it is time to solve the ASPA problem. “I believe that this should be taken a step further and taken to the court. He said the legislature is close to reviewing the budget for fiscal year 2013 and a solution has yet to be found regarding the issue of ASPA’s budget — and must be resolved before the budget hearings are underway.
Gaoteote answered that he has written to all concerned parties and has yet to receive responses. He did not indicate whether or not the matter would go to the court anytime soon.