Why ASVB director makes a much higher salary than ASG directors
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Administration including the budget of the American Samoa Visitors Bureau (ASVB) - which according to local law is a semi-autonomous agency - in the annual general government FY 2020 budget submission has been questioned by Sen. Magalei Logovi’i.
The ASVB was established by law a few years back, during the Togiola Administration, as an authority governed by a board of directors appointed by a sitting governor and confirmed by the Fono.
In the past 3-4 years, the Lolo Administration has included the ASVB’s annual budget as part of the general government operation, and this includes FY 2020, in which the agency’s proposed budget is $676,000 - the same for FY 2019.
ASVB executive director, David Vaeafe, whose current salary $90,000 - same as the proposed FY 2020 - appeared last Friday morning before the Fono Joint Budget Committee hearing.
Responding to committee questions, Vaeafe said his salary is part of his contract, and a renewal is pending with the governor.
Magalei said it “puzzles” him that the ASVB budget is submitted along with the general government budget book, when the ASVB was established with the “intention that you will be self sustained.”
Magalei - who served as ASG Treasurer when the law which established the ASVB during the Togiola Administration went into effect - said the agency is given its own budget “and you go out and find revenue to run the operation.”
And the agency is governed by a board, but now the ASVB is back in the budget document under the control of the ASG Budget Office, Magalei said. “I don’t understand how you end up” in the general government budget “and yet you’re supposed to be, under the law, a semi-autonomous controlled by the board,” Magalei told Vaeafe, and added, “that’s why your salary is not equivalent to any of the [ASG] directors.”
He asked how the Visitors Bureau has ended up in the general government budget document - which is listed in the FY 2020 budget document as an executive branch department.
“Does that mean everything you order goes through the budget process?,” Magalei asked. Vaeafe said, “No, we maintain our own budget. We draw down funds that are available for our budget from ASG Treasury to pay our vendors and to run our operation.”
He explained that, “in the past we’ve applied for grants to supplement our budget, but like everything, those grants are competitive so we are competing with other agencies.”
He added, “we are unable, like other countries, to tap into the departure tax because that’s a federal law” to fund its operation. There is a local hotel room tax, but 75% of that goes to the airport and the other 25% goes to the general fund, he said. “Clearly we would like to be able to have a portion of that hotel room tax to run our operations,” he continued.
Magalei asked if ASVB’s payroll comes under the general government payroll, to which Vaeafe said, “we have our own payroll.” (Samoa News notes that the executive branch payroll comes under the Dept of Human Resources.)
“It doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t make sense at all,” was Magalei’s reaction, and reiterated that as a semi-autonomous agency, Visitors Bureau controls its own budget.
“What the government does is give you a subsidy…you report how you spent that to the ASG Budget office,” Magalei said, and reiterated that ASVB’s budget shouldn’t be included under general government, because “you run your own operation - you have your own payroll, do your own thing.”
In the end, Magalei said the joint budget committee will call back, the ASG Budget Office, for questioning.