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A look at how your tax dollars are being spent by the Fono

Rendering of the proposed new Fono Building. [SN file photo]

This is the second installment of a four-part report on the Fono's budget — which totals nearly $7 million for FY 2018 — and includes a breakdown of where taxpayer funds are being spent by the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Legislative Finance Office (LFO), and the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB).

Samoa News has obtained a copy of the Fono's final 2018 budget which was prepared earlier this year in June. (See last Friday's Samoa News edition for details on Senate spending).

As with the Senate, the House of Representatives has a set salary for their members — $25,000 per year for 17 faipule, except for the House Speaker who makes $30,000. The salaries amount to $530,000 per year.

And yes, they also have a bi-weekly, tax-free allowance drawn under the 'materials and supplies' category which amounts to $640,000 ($30,000 each for 20 faipule and $40,000 for the Speaker).

The remaining $46,000 of the total $686,000 'materials and supplies' category budget is as follows: $15,00 for office supplies; $8,000 for photocopy supplies (toners, ink, paper, etc.); $3,000 for postage (mailing correspondence off island); $5,000 for toiletries and cleaning supplies; and $15,000 for office equipment and vehicle supplies.

For travel expenses, there is $100,000 allocated for airfare, $43,000 for per diem for "House related meetings and conferences". Another $30,000 is set aside for airfare — $12,000 in per diem — for "staff training and development including legislative conferences related meetings and workshops". (Samoa News has been unable to confirm where these training sessions are conducted, or if there have been any in the past years).

Under the "all other costs" category, $4,500 goes to "printing and reproduction"; $60,000 is for ASPA utility costs; $26,500 is for "telephone and communications" (for fax, local, and long distance calls); $10,000 is for "protocol expenses"; $10,000 is for "scholarships, grants, subsidies"; and $50,000 is for "other" (There are no specific details listed) — bringing the total of "all other costs" to $161,000.

Altogether, there are four vehicles listed as belonging to the House — two trucks and two SUVs — with total price tags of $125,300. None are listed as being paid with federal grants, as the budget report only notes that all four are "Local and DOI" vehicles.

The budget document also details each job position and how much is being paid for each.

The Chief of Staff gets paid the most — $40,000 per year, followed by the chief clerk and the property management officer who each earn $38,000 a year.

The Secretary to the Speaker and the Special Assistant earn $35,000 a piece.

But the Speaker's secretary also has a secretary, noted in the budget as "assistant secretary to speaker" making $20,000.

There are three research analysts, two being paid $25,000 each while the other gets $22,000.

There are also three liaison officers (two local — getting paid $22,000 and $25,000; and one in Hawai’i making $15,000).

There is a position for an "assistant editor clerk" earning $25,000.

Perhaps the most interesting position noted in the budget is the "Speaker's Chauffeur".

Said position is noted twice in the budget, with one making $12,000 while the other is getting paid $20,000. (Samoa News notes that the Speaker is generally seen driving himself around, and usually attends meetings and official government gatherings unescorted by a 'chauffeur').

Twelve people are working as a 'page' with salaries ranging from $10,000 to $16,000.

Two "proofreaders" are being paid a total of $29,000 and there are five under the "watchman" position, making between $12,000 and $14,000.

There are a handful of "clerks" with one noted as "Clerk IV (Specialize)" who makes $14,000.

Altogether, the total annual salaries for just the House of Representatives alone is $1,498,500 but with fringe benefits (16.70%) amounting to $130,370 — the total personnel costs amount to $1,628,870.

The fiscal year 2018 budget — $394.76 million — was signed by Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga on Sept. 30th. After he line-item vetoed amendments made by the Fono, Lolo returned the legislature's budget to the original proposed FY 2018 budget of $6,916,500

(Read tomorrow's issue of Samoa News for a breakdown of the LRB budget).