Senate and Treasurer spar over use of $4.6 million

Despite the move by the Senators not to act on the administration bill to reprogram $4.3 million (which was approved in the House) for Fiscal Year 2013, that did not stop the Lolo and Lemanu Administration from using the funds without Fono approval as mandated by local statute, said Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie.

 

The reprogrammed money came from 23 offices and departments as well as 12 projects under the Special Program budget category. It was meant to fund expected overruns at the end of FY 2013 for eight departments and eleven programs under Special Programs.

 

The issue was discussed during a hearing held last week with Treasurer Dr Falema’o Phil Pili before the Senate’s Budget and Appropriations committee, who sought the reason ASG  had used the money without proper Fono approval.

 

According to Pili, there are departments who have overrun their budgets, and looking at the audit report every year there’s a substantial amount of overrun. However, he said, this is not right, as it’s in violation of the anti-deficiency act. He said this is why the administration sought Fono approval for reprogramming the $4.6 million (Pili pointed out the reprograming was for $4.6 million, rather than $4.3 million).

 

“There were departments who saved a lot, and other departments who were in the red — including the Fono — but the motive behind the reprograming is that we do it the right way, and reshuffling of the savings within that fiscal year would have met compliance with the anti- deficiency act,” said Pili.

 

Senator Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono asked the Treasurer how much the Fono was “in the red” and in response, he pointed out the Fono was overrun by $27,000.

 

Senate President Gaoteote pointed out to Pili that the Fono had not acted on the $4.3 million reprograming, yet viewing the 4th quarter report the funding has been used. 

 

“The big question the Fono has is — under whose authority was the okay given to use the funding? Because, the Fono did not approve the reprogramming. Yet, by law, it’s the Fono that gives approval first, before the funding is used,” he stated.

 

“The Fono has emphasized this many times— about the use of funds without proper approval, including other supplementals being submitted,” he said.

 

“Whose authority allowed the using of funding — from $4.6million and according to the report from the governor, there’s only $211,000 remaining?” Gaoteote asked.

 

The Treasurer assured the Senators the $4.6 million has not been used and explained the $211,000, which was submitted for supplemental is a savings from the $4.6 million.

 

The explanation did not sit well with Gaoteote, who was adamant the $4.6 million has been used — as it does not appear on any financial report given to them.

 

Gaoteote then pointed out, the reason the Fono held the reprogramming bill, was because the language of the bill needed to be changed from reprogramming to supplemental. He further noted the use of the $4.6 million without approval is wrong, and it’s a mistake that should be corrected.

 

He told Pili, “According to your 4th quarter report, the $4.6 million has been used and what you’re telling us is wrong. It has been used.”

 

Gaoteote further stated, “I urge you to take back what you said — that you are trying to do the right thing. What’s wrong here is that you (ASG) had no authority to use the $4.6 million.”

 

The Chairman of the Senate Budget committee, Laolagi Savali Vaeao, stated that while the government points out they must abide by the anti deficiency law, what about the local statute for reprogramming funds— which is subject to Fono approval?

 

“Give and take, the Administration has taken on the anti deficiency law and yet ignored another law. Do it right, because the law is clear. It’s true there is a cap however it was recently approved by the Fono to increase that cap to $100,000 from $25,000. Yet, this is $4.6 million we’re talking about.”

 

Laolagi urged the Treasurer to heed the advice from the Fono — to follow the law and said there is always a way to do it, or it can be resubmitted.

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