Ads by Google Ads by Google

Senate rejects bill raising its salaries while lowering office allowances

Senate chamber

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Senate passed in third reading on Wednesday, two Senate bills, which were discussed extensively in hearings held this week, while rejecting a bill that would have adjusted the compensation and expense packages for the legislators — senators and faipule — by raising their salaries while lowering their expense allowances.

The first bill allows for mediation of communal lands and matai titles cases to be referred to the Office of Samoan Affairs.

Introduced by Senator Togiola T.A. Tulafono, this bill was discussed in a hearing of the Senate Samoan Affairs where the District Governors of Manu’a and the Western District testified.

It was passed unanimously by a vote of 15-0.

The second bill was introduced by Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean and amends the responsibilities of the Governor of American Samoa in the budget procedure to mandate the legislative appropriation of any unanticipated revenues.

As reported by Samoa News this week, there was much discontent among senators in hearings where an overrun exceeding $40 million in the 2023 Fiscal Year was revealed in the testimonies of Government Treasurer Malemo Tausaga and Budget Office Director Catherine Saleua.

A blatant disregard for established rules and regulations in the process of executing payments to government departments and agencies, and private companies for services rendered, was also revealed.

A third Senate bill was however rejected.

The proposed bill was introduced by Senators Malaepule Saite Molina, Ma’o Faauma Gogo and Poumele P. Poumele and provides for an adjustment in the compensation and expense amounts for legislators that would have salaries higher than their ‘office’ allowances.

It points out that Section 2.0102 of the American Samoa Code Annotated which “establishes the annual salaries for the Senators, Representatives and Delegate has not been updated since 1982 despite the immense rise in the cost of living since that time.

“Over the years, the Fono members’ expense account has grown to compensate for the lack of salary increases.

“However, this bill aims to rectify the situation by raising the salary to a level appropriate for a legislator’s role. Additionally, it proposes an adequate expense fund to cover costs associated with their official duties.”

The following amendments were proposed:

Annual salary of the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House — $85,000 (from $30,000)

Annual salary of other members of the Legislature — $80,000 (from $25,000)

Annual salary of the Delegate from Swains Island — $75,000 (from $20,000)

Office expense fund for legislators:

There shall be paid in equal bi-weekly installments an annual expense allowance of;

$25,000 (from $65,000) per annum to each member of the Senate and House of Representatives;

$30,000 (from $80,000) per annum to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“This allowance is to defray expenses relating to or resulting from the discharge of their official duties. An accounting of the expenditures incurred by the member is not required.

(Samoa News notes that the annual expense allowance is lowered to compensate for the raise in salaries.)