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Fetui says Gov and exec branch have no authority over the Fono's budget

Vice Speaker, Rep. Fetui Fetu Jr. says the responsibility of Lolo and the executive branch is to keep the Fono's budget and release it when lawmakers need it. [photo: AF]
Rep. Faimealelei suggests giving each faipule his or her ‘own’ budget to control

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Vice Speaker, Rep. Fetui Fetu Jr. told members of the House yesterday morning that the Governor and his Executive Branch do not have the authority to hold the Fono’s budget. He said their only responsibility is to keep it, control it, and release it to the Fono when Senators and faipule need it.

Fetui was responding to the issue raised by Rep. Vesi Talalelei Fautanu Jr., asking why the Executive Branch is holding the Fono’s budget for travel. Vesi said there is a lot of work faipule need to carry out, especially collecting information from off island for committee hearings.

Fetui told House members he was not aware that the Executive Branch was holding the Fono’s budget for travel.

“Each of the three branches of government cannot dictate to the other what they should do. The Executive Branch has their own business to take care of and the Fono has it’s own agendas to fulfill. We need to put a stop on issues like this because if we allow the Executive Branch to continue on with what they’re doing, our future generation will follow the same mistake,” Fetui said.

“Our duty as representatives from each district is to uphold the dignity of the Fono, lay down a solid foundation, and set good examples, so our future generation will see it and follow our footsteps,” he continued.

After being told of the issue, Fetui said the only way to get everyone to understand what is happening is to call the Treasurer to explain to House members why the Fono’s travel budget is being held.

Vesi, who raised the issue, wants to know why the governor and the executive branch is holding money that was passed for Fono travel. He told his fellow faipule yesterday that he was told by some cabinet members that the governor has instructed the Treasury Department to stop the spending of the Fono's travel budget.

Rep. Gafatasi Afalava said he doesn't understand why the government is doing this to the Fono. He said he believes that if a hearing is called, the treasurer will not be able to provide all the information the faipule are looking for. He then recommended to hold off until the House Speaker returns.

Rep. Amituana’i E. Vailoata said he doesn't believe the reason behind the governor’s decision is because the economy is not good.

“The government’s duty is to look for money to fund its operations and I don’t believe the government is having a problem with collections. If you travel around the island, especially the west side, you will notice new infrastructure, and that tells us the collections are good and the government has a lot of money,” Amituana’i said.

Chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, Rep. Vailiuama S. Leasiolagi told House members that according to the Fiscal 2018 First Quarter Performance Report, the Fono overspent its quarterly budget by 1%. According to the report, Legislature spending for the 1st quarter was 26%.

He said, "The government is in good form with its cash collections. Where are the problems? We can ask the Treasurer to come and explain to us the reason behind the governor’s decision, but I also want you — House members — to review the report and compare the Fono's spending to the spending of other government agencies.”

Rep. Faimealelei A. Fu’e Allen echoed Vailiuama’s statement, saying that he himself reviewed the report and noticed that only the Fono overspent its budget during the first quarter of FY 2018.

While trying to find the real answer to the question as to why the Fono’s budget for the first quarter was overspent, Faimealelei said he believes the Treasurer cannot answer that question, only the Fono's Financial Officer (LFO) can.

Faimealelei said he doesn’t know whether the Senate or the House is overspending, and the reason why a lot of questions are being asked is because members of the House don't understand what’s going on with the Fono’s budget.

He added that it’s really hard for him to say something about the Fono budget because of his respect for the Fono leaders. He said the only way to put a stop to this problem is to let each faipule have his or her own budget, and this will allow them to run their own office, control their own finances, and hire whoever they want to hire.