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Senators contend Fono is not a department of ASG

 Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie [SN file photo]
Translated by Samoa News staff

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee made only one amendment to the House version of the fiscal year 2018 budget, and that is to increase the Fono’s budget by $500,000 by reallocating money under the Special Programs category, overseen by the Governor’s Office.

At yesterday’s Senate session, the House version of the FY 2018 budget was introduced in first reading. The House version kept the budget in tact without amendments.

After the session, the committee convened for discussion, Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie moved to use the House version for their debate, in order to get the approval process expedited. And senators agreed.

Based on statements by senators during the discussion, $700,000 of the Fono’s original FY 2018 is placed under the Special Programs (Polokalama Fa’apitoa), and overseen by the governor.

Senators agreed that only $500,000 would be reallocated and added to the overall total of the Fono’s budget. The Fono will leave the $200,000 there in case there is a future need.

Senators contend that the Fono is a separate branch of government and therefore shouldn’t be treated as a department of ASG.

The Legislative Financial Office is given the task of working out the final details of how the $500,000 with be allocated into the Fono’s total budget — for example, to cover expenses such as materials and supplies. Thereafter the information will be reported back to the committee so the amendment is officially made to the budget bill.

It was unclear yesterday when the committee is expected to report the budget bill to the floor for second reading.

When the FY 2018 budget was submitted to the Fono in July, the Fono’s budget totaled $6.91 million. With the $500,000 reallocated from the Special Programs, the Fono’s proposed total budget now stands at over $7 million.

[See original Samoan story on today's front page]


Special Programs, which was included in Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s cover letter when he submitted to the Fono the $395 million ASG basic budget for FY 2018, does not show a $700,000 allocation for the Legislature.  

It does show up in the Supplemental FY 2018 Budget that shows $700,000 for the Fono to fund expenditures such as materials and supplies, travel for lawmakers, and “All Others” expenses.

However, during the Fono Joint Budget Committee hearings two weeks ago, the Fono leaders informed lawmakers that $700,000 — cited in the supplemental budget — was submitted as part of the Fono’s basic budget and there is no supplemental for the Fono budget.

It should be clear today or tomorrow where the Senate will get the $500,000 that it wants to include in the Fono’s FY 2018 budget.