House OKs Supplemental Appropriation Bill for Fono operations
The Administration’s second supplemental appropriation bill of $1.1 million to fund the operations of the Legislature for the remainder of FY 2013 was approved in final reading in the House of Representatives last Saturday. A Senate hearing on the proposed bill is set for today where the Treasurer is scheduled to appear.
Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga has moved to suspend the processing of Legislative FY 2013 expenses, until the supplemental is approved, noting that in light of the chronic deficit position of the Fono’s FY 2013 budget, there is a need for intervention.
Although the House has approved their version of the bill, House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale is adamant the Fono has a balance of $2.9 million from the $3 million the Fono received through the $20 million loan from the Retirement Fund — which was allocated to build a new Fono Building.
“The only money we used from that $3 million was $100,000 to renovate the Fono properties that were damaged in the 2009 tsunami — which is why there’s $2.9 million left,” he said.
The Speaker said they had an agreement with former Governor Togiola Tulafono that expenses incurred during the construction of the Information Technology Building would be taken from the $2.9 million they had in their budget. However, when the new administration took over, they charged all the expenses for the IT building to the Fono’s budget and this, according to Talavou, shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
(Last week, Samoa News reported on the issue brought up by the House Speaker, noting there is no money because the current administration has taken whatever balance of the $20 million dollar loan there is — and its no where the $2.9 million according to reports — and initiated an Emergency Reserve Fund account. Lolo said during a cabinet meeting, there were just too many projects to complete and just not enough money left of the loan, and he believed this was the best use of the remaining money. The governor also said he had had a meeting with the Fono leaders on the matter.)
Treasurer Dr Falema’o Phil Pili told Samoa News their accounting records clearly substantiate the $1.1million overrun. “I believe the math is quite simple," he said, before breaking it down as follows:
• The Fono's total approved budget was $6,700,000 ( it's recorded in the system)
• As of 7/31 — actual expenditures with encumbrances total $ 6,821,136 — or overrun status of $121,136 ($6,700,000 less actual expenditures of $6,821,136)
• With two remaining months of the fiscal year, the government calculates it would take $978,868 to complete the fiscal year. (Allowing only for personnel costs, allowances, utilities and small recurring expenditures.)
• With the overrun on 7/31 of $121,132 plus forecasted costs to complete the fiscal year of $ 978,868, this equals to a projected overrun of $1,100,000.
“With respect to the $2.9 million, I am not sure where this number is coming from. I can only surmise, but I have to see the source or how it was calculated into the budgetary process,” said the Treasurer in response to Samoa News queries.
According to the supplemental bill approved in the House, the largest allocation of $500,000 goes to personnel costs, followed by lawmakers' allowances of $260,000. Electricity stands at $250,000 and Contractual Services amount to $90,000.