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JUST ASKING… Fono budget?

Rendering of the proposed new Fono Building. [SN file photo]
compiled by Samoa News staff

Several of our readers have asked Samoa News if there is a breakdown of where the money in the Fono's budget goes? They ask: Why does the Fono need a budget of nearly $7 million to operate?

With all those revenue bills they passed — it would be interesting to find out how our tax dollars are being spent.

Samoa News responds — first with a breakdown of the Senate budget, to be followed by a breakdown of the House budget:


According to the Fono's budget summary for the final budget of fiscal year 2018 — prepared June 2017 — the current salary for senators is $25,000 per year, not including the Senate president who earns $30,000 a year. The total amount allotted for salaries alone is $455, 000, which covers 17 senators and the Senate President.

Other personnel also listed as "contract" workers — 18 total — account for $601,000 in salaries. (40% of the salary for the "Liaison officer" is paid by the Governor's Office).

Of interest:

There are four (4) employees being paid for the position of "special assistant to the president". One of them earns $55,000, the other gets paid $45,000, another gets $35,000 and one other gets paid $30,000

Samoa News asked several Fono employees to identify the senate president's special assistants and we were basically told to call someone else to find out. In the end, there was no definitive answer of who exactly these individuals are.

The budget document also notes that the president's secretary earns $25,000, which is the same amount being paid to each of three administrative assistants. However, there is another administrative assistant making $18,000, while two more are getting paid $14,000 each, and the seventh (7th) one is making $13,000.

And then there is the Senate's chief of staff, who earns $58,000, while the chief of personnel makes $30,000.

Aside from the liaison officer whose salary is being paid partially by the Governor's Office, there two other liaison officers noted in the budget summary — one earns $35,000 and the other gets paid $18,000.

Samoa News should point out that there are two paid positions for a "senate cook" whose salaries are listed at $15,000 and $13,000 — as well as another position "Cook I" listed as making $12,000.

There are 18 people under the 'page' position, getting paid between $11,000 and $14,000.

Altogether, for the Senate side only, approximately $1,836,000 is for personnel services, $554,500 for materials & supplies, $144,000 for travel, and $50,000 for "all others".

No money is allotted for contractual services or equipment, according to a copy of the budget summary, obtained by Samoa News.

Allowances of $30,000 for each of the 17 senators and $40,000 for the Senate president — all tax-free — are listed under the "materials and supplies" category, for a total of $550,000

Only $4,500 of the $554,000 budget under the "materials and supplies" category is for office supplies ($2,500); janitorial supplies ($500); and maintenance materials ($1,500). The rest is for payment of allowances.

The $144,000 budget for "travel" notes that $126,000 is for airfare to attend senate related meetings and conferences, etc. with per diems of $8,500

Staff training and seminars account for another $8,000 with $1,500 for per diem.

Under the "all other costs" category for the final FY 2018 budget, the "protocol and entertainment expenses" for the senate president is $50,000 — up $20,000 from the approved FY 2017 budget.

Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga, on Sept. 30th, signed the fiscal year 2018 budget — of $394.76 million — but only after he line-item vetoed amendments made by the Fono, returning the Legislature's budget to the original proposed FY 2018 budget of $6,916,500.

(Read Monday's issue of Samoa News for a breakdown of the House budget)