Treasurer & Budget Director agree on payouts funding
With both the ASG Treasurer and ASG Budget Office director at a Senate hearing last Thursday, Sen. Mauga T. Asuega sought a confirmation and verification from both officials as to whether or not money was budgeted in the fiscal year 2013 budget for payouts, which is the subject of a Senate committee probe.
Mauga’s question was the same issue on which other senators wanted clarification because of the conflicting testimony Treasurer Dr. Falema’o ‘Phil’ M. Pili and Budget Office director Catherine Aigamaua-Saelua gave to the Senate.
When asked about the payouts during her Senate confirmation hearing two weeks ago, Aigamaua-Saelua said around $600,000 was allocated for payouts in the FY 2013. (Aigamaua-Saelua was deputy director of the Budget Office during the last administration, when the FY 2013 went through review by the Fono in September.)
Pili on the other hand told a Senate hearing last week that he has reviewed the budget and there is no specific budget item that identifies funds for the payouts of directors and contract workers as well as the governor and lieutenant governor of the last administration. He also said that he would consult with Aigamaua-Saelua as soon as the pair has a chance for a meeting to review ASG records.
Pili and Aigamaua-Saelua both appeared last Thursday to testify on the administration’s $5 million supplemental appropriation, which includes $500,000 allocated to the Governor’s Office “for unfunded payouts to former administration & staff.”
At the hearing, Mauga reminded the witnesses about the $500,000 allocation for the unfunded payouts as well as testimony by Aigamaua-Saelua that some $600,000 was budgeted in FY 2013.
Mauga said when Pili testified last week Wednesday during the Senate Government Operations Committee hearing on the payouts, he said that no funds were budgeted for payouts in FY 2013 and this conflicting testimony is a concern to senators, who want to get accurate information.
Aigamaua-Saelua told senators that she humbly testified with honest and truth before the Senate that there is $614,500 in the FY 2013 for payouts, adding that when the FY 2013 Budget Call went out last year, cabinet members were required to included in their budget proposal money to cover payouts — which is also known as separation pay.
She also distributed a copy of the budget call letter for senators to review. As reported by Samoa News last June, a portion of the letter signed by then Budget Office director Malemo Tausaga, states that “additional funding must be obligated to absorb the separation compensation payouts for outgoing directors.”
Aigamaua-Saelua informed senators that funding for payouts was not a separate line item in the FY 2013 budget, but was included as part of the budget for the director's office and this is the same case for the governor’s office.
Pili told the committee that is was difficult to identify the money for payouts because there was no specific “line item budget” for these payouts. He agreed with the Budget Office director about the money budgeted for payouts and an additional review will be carried out by his office.
However, senators remained concerned that $614,000 was not enough in the budget, because of the additional half million dollars to be allocated to the governor’s office under the supplemental budget.
When the payout issue surfaced last September during the FY 2013 budget hearings Malemo told Samoa News that each department and agency has allocated in their FY 2013 budget funds to pay any “excess leave” due to the outgoing director, accumulated throughout the official’s term. He said this includes the governor and lieutenant governor.
He said the Budget Office asked each department and office to estimate what they expected in excess leave for a cabinet member and to have that amount included in their FY 2013 budget under personnel costs.
And when questioned by lawmakers during the budget hearing last year, Malemo said the separation pay expenditure is included in the personnel costs for each ASG department and office. At that time, he said the governor and the administration believe that ‘excess leave time accrued’ should be paid out without impacting the next administration.