Senate travel tops $170,000 from Oct 2012 to Feb 2013
Dozens of payments were made out for travel-related expenses (airfares, per diems, protocol) for the majority of senators and Senate staffers and according to a copy of the Senate expense report obtained by the Samoa News, the budgets for the “Food for Human Consumption” category and the “Maintenance and Repair Supplies” category were used to pay some of these travel-related expenses, aside from those listed in the “Off-Island Travel” and “Manu’a Local Travel” categories.
The Fono has an approved budget of $6.2 million for fiscal year 2013. Based on First Quarter Performance Report from the ASG Treasury Department, the Fono is projected to have an overrun of $1.5 million in 2013.
The Fono has already overrun their first quarter budget by almost $400,000.But recently; an approved supplemental budget gave $500,000 back to the Fono‘s budget.
In the meantime, the final financial statement for 2012 has yet to be made available and reportedly, the Fono overran their budget by approximately $1.4 million in 2012. The year before, based on the 2011 final ASG financial statement, the Fono had an overrun of $443,000.
A Samoa News source said, “Sadly, the Fono really has no oversight agency to independently look at the Legislature’s activities so it is hard to request for an audit, as the final approval for any such reports will have to come from the two leaders (the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives).”
For the “Food for Human Consumption” category from Nov. 27, 2012- Feb. 21, 2013, the expense report lists around $60,000 for travel-related expenses, and the “Maintenance and Repair Supplies” category includes around $7,317.00 in such expenses. The category of “Off-Island Travel” is listed at $104, 810.13, and the “Manu’a Local Travel”- $675.
If the four totals are added together, the Senate is reported to have spent around $171,000 on travel alone, from October 2012 to February 2013.
According to a source at the Fono, travel for lawmakers can be paid for or reimbursed by the Legislature if the trip involves Fono business.
Samoa News notes the expenses, while listed as ‘airfare for, ‘APD in…’, ‘land transport’, ‘car rental’, etc., there is no indication what Fono business was being done on the travel-related expense.
Mabuhay Travel and Worldwide Tours are the travel agencies listed for many of the airfares, when noted, with Mabuhay Travel listed more often. Both agencies are located in Nu’uuli. Mabuhay Travel does business as “Mabuhay Travel Services”, according to their website.
Of interest, under “Other Contractual Services”, Mabuhay Travel is also listed as receiving $10,000 on October 12, 2012. If it was for airfares, then the amount the Senate spent on travel tops $181,000.
Samoa News does note the ASG Retirement Fund meeting was held in December 2012 in Honolulu, Hawai’i, according to information reported by Samoa News, the ASG Employees Retirement Fund paid only for airfares.
Also, noted was that most of the payments for travel-related expenses in the “Food for Human Consumption” category were made in February this year, with certain exceptions, made in December 2012.
The exceptions are:
On December 11, 2012, Senate President Gaoteote Palaie Tofau received four payments totaling $9,873.40 for travel to Honolulu, Hawaii. The total payment includes $3,360 for per diem, $800 for a car rental, $3,500 for “protocol” and $2,213.40 for airfare.
Three days later on December 14, head of the Legislative Finance Office Talalemotu Mauga received two payments totaling $3,040 for per diem and land transportation in Honolulu.
Western District Governor Lualemaga Faoa, who was a senator at the time, had his airfare of $2,233.40 paid for by the Senate on December 18, 2012 and he also received an additional $1,321 for land transportation and per diem in Honolulu and Los Angeles.
That same day, the Senate also made out another check of $1,458.40 for airfare to Mabuhay Travel — noting that it was “Airfare for Pel”.
On December 19, the Governor’s Executive Assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, who was a contractor at the Fono, received $2,265 for land transportation and per diem in Honolulu. The Senate also forked out $939.60 to pay his airfare. (Iulogologo is now with the Governor’s Office, as the Executive Assistant to the Governor.)
For the “Maintenance and Repair Supplies” category of the expense report, it shows a per diem was issued on Dec. 3 for Fono staffer Mary Galea’i in the amount of $1,792 for travel to Honolulu, while Mabuhay Travel was paid $2,248.40 for airfare for Jeann Tuufuli on Dec. 18. That same day, another payment of $121 was issued to the same company for “amended airfare.”
On Dec. 3, two payments were made to Jeann Tuufuli in the amounts of $672 for per diem in Honolulu and $484 for per diem in Las Vegas.
Mabuhay Travel again received another $2,000 on Feb. 28 for “repair and maintenance.”
For the “Off-island Travel” category, the Senate expense report shows that the Senate spent $104,810.13 on travel between Oct. 10, 2012 and Feb. 19, 2013.
Of note, in October, Sen. Galea’i Tuufuli received $1,925 total for travel to Los Angeles and Honolulu while Tulafono Sola’ita got a total of $2,065 for travel to Honolulu and San Francisco.
Senate Secretary Leo’o Va’a Ma’o received payments totaling $1,469 for travel to Honolulu and Seattle, with the Senate footing the bill for his airfare of $2,391.90
Senate President Gaoteote got a total of $5,285 for travel to Apia, including airfare, per diem, car rental, and protocol expenses.
Mika Kelemete Jr., received $1,185 for airfare and travel expenses to Apia and a payment of $2,214 was made to Worldwide Tours for airfare for Tuufuli.
A total of $1,185 was paid for airfare and per diem for Tavita Roseti to travel to Apia and former Ms. American Samoa Cindy Silao, who is from Vatia and works in the Senate President’s office, received a total of $3,561.40 in payments to cover her airfare, land transportation, and per diem to San Francisco and Honolulu.
In late October last year, Worldwide Tours was paid $4,428 for airfares for Solaita and Tuufuli, according to the report.
The following are some of the travel expenses paid for by the Senate between Oct. 2012 and Feb. 2013 as noted in the expense report (unless otherwise noted, the payments were for per diem and land transportation expenses, not including airfare):
Oct. 26 - Savali Savali Jr., $3,508 (Honolulu and Las Vegas)
Nov. 02 - Mabuhay Travel $2,265.46 “airfare for Savali”
Nov. 26 - Malepeai Setu $1,593 (Honolulu)
Nov. 26 - I’atala Tagiil $1,593 (Honolulu)
Nov. 26 - Mauga Tasi Asuega $1,321 (Honolulu and Los Angeles)
Nov. 27 - Atofau, Fiavivini $2,042 (Honolulu and Seattle)
Nov. 27 - Tulafono Solaita $1,593 (Honolulu)
Nov. 28 - Aigamaua, Pesamino $3,360 (Honolulu)
Dec. 03 - Mauga, Talalemotu $3,960 (no details given)
Dec. 03 - Talia, Faafetai $725 (airfare and per diem to Manu’a)
Dec. 04 - Worldwide Tours $3,190.80 for two airfares ($1,595.40 each)
Dec. 04 - Mabuhay Travel $4908.80 total for three airfares
Dec. 17 - Mabuhay Travel $1,706.40 (airfare)
Dec. 24 - Tulifua Lam Yuen $3,045 (Honolulu and Los Angeles)
Jan. 08 - Worldwide Tours $1,590.40 “airfare”
Jan. 09 - Sao T. Nua $480 (Manu’a)
Jan. 15 - Galea’i Tuufuli $2,081 (Honolulu and Los Angeles)
Jan. 17 - Alo Faauuga $2,149 (Honolulu and Los Angeles)
Jan. 17 - Mabuhay Travel $4,468.80 “Airfares for Galea’i and Faauuga - $2,234.40 each”
Jan. 23 - Esera, Siolosega $1,383 (Honolulu and San Jose)
Feb. 05 - Mabuhay Travel $2,333.40 “Airfare for Siolosega”
Feb. 6 was a busy day for the Senate, as far as payments. On that day, Senate President Gaoteote received a total of $7,040 for car rental, protocol expenses, and per diem for a trip to Honolulu.
Other payments included $1,568 to Senate Secretary Leo’o Va’a Ma’o “for Honolulu” and $1,120 each “for Honolulu” to Saole Mila, Galea’i Tuufuli, [Laolagi] Savali Vaeao, Mauga Tasi Asuega, Magalei Logovii, Asifoa Atualevao, Sao Nua, Tagisia Faumuina, Siolosega Esera, and Faauuga Alo.
Letuligasenoa also received two payments of $1,120 each ($2,240 total) that day, plus another $2,240 for “Honolulu” for a total of $4,480. The Letuligasenoa check for $2,240 is listed to ‘Solia Fofoga’, whose matai title is Letuligasenoa.
Vaiula Matautia received $1,568, while Pesamino Aigamaua got $2,240 for “Honolulu”.
(Samoa News notes that it reported that the ASG Employees Retirement Fund paid for airfares only for the Retirement Committees for each Fono chamber — House and Senate — for its meeting in Honolulu, in December 2012. Also, senators’ names are reported as they ‘appear” in the expense report, which are not necessarily with their ‘matai’ titles.
There are thirteen Senate committee members: Saole Mila, Galea’i Tuufuli, [Laolagi] Savali Vaeao, Magalei Logovii, Asifoa Atualevao, Sao Nua, Tagisia Faumuina, Siolosega Esera, Faauuga Alo, Pesamino Aigamaua and [Letuligasenoa] Solia Fofoga, Sua Mata’utia and Faletagoa’i Iati Tuiolemotu.
Sua Mata’utia and Faletagoa’i Iati Tuiolemotu do not have any airfare or per diem listed in the expense report “for Honolulu”. )
On Feb. 19, Mabuhay Travel received a check for 1,707.37 for “airfare”, with no name.
For “Manu’a Local Travel,” the only person listed under the category is Sen. Sao Nua, who received a total of $675 for airfare, land transportation, and per diem on Jan. 18 and Feb. 6.
(Stay tuned to the Samoa News for more news on Fono expenses, including expenses for the House of Representatives, the Legislative Reference Bureau, Fono Finance, and the new Fono building, and the Fono's computer expenses.)
Other payments under the “Food for Human Consumption” category listed as such, include a check for $586.70 to Senate President Gaoteote on January 10; a payment of $1,120 for Fono employee Lotoleaga Emelio; and $2,600 to Senator Saoluaga T. Nua.
The following are some of the other payments for “Food For Human Consumption” that were made out by the Senate during the aforementioned time period:
Dec. 04 - Atofau, Fiavivini $750
Dec. 31 - Hong Kong House $1,395.75
Dec. 31 - Deluxe Café $2,666.50
Jan. 04 - Tradewinds Hotel $2,544
Jan. 10 - Hong Kong House $3,187.35
Jan. 11 - Tradewinds Hotel $681
Jan. 11 - KS Mart $135.78 and $1,576.94
Jan. 14 - American Samoa $2,170
Jan. 18 - Hong Kong House $738.50
Jan. 24 - Atofau Fiavivini $800
Jan. 29 - KS Mart $488.16
Feb. 21 - Sao T. Nua $2,600
The name that appears most frequently under the “Food For Human Consumption” category is that of Solia, Fofoga (who according to Fono sources works in the Legislative Finance Office) and who is named as the recipient for payments totaling $46,756.50 (from the Senate side alone, not including funds from the House of Representatives and other Fono divisions).
A source at the Fono says they believe the checks are made out to Solia, who cashes them and then uses the funds to pay for things approved by the Fono’s higher-ups, in this case, the Senate President.
Other questionable expenses under the Repairs and Maintenance Category include:
Paid out $4,800 on Feb. 12 — to “Nuuuli Service” —and it is unclear where or what this business is. The same company is noted under the “Hotels, Restaurants, Etc.” category of the expense report as receiving $2,501.91 on Oct. 12, 2012.
A payment of $200 was made out to “American Samoa” on Feb. 14 although it is unclear if this is a business or organization.
ASCO Motors was paid $34,500 on Feb. 20.
(See complete details in Friday’s edition of the Samoa News)