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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Senator Calls For Review Of Am. Samoa Government Payouts
Previous administration payouts reportedly around $1.01 million

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 16, 2013) – Senator Galeai Tu’ufuli has called for a full Senate review of the thousands of dollars in payouts for American Samoa’s past administration while Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono has requested additional information and an update on the American Samoa Government’s (ASG) deficit that as of Monday this week was more than $44 million as stated by Gov. Lolo Matasi Moliga in his territorial address to the Fono on Monday.

The requests were made during the first Senate session yesterday, where the membership approved its standing committees, including chairmanship of each committee. Among the panels are the Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Sen. Nua Saoluaga, who is also the Senate President ProTemp, or vice president of the Senate. Vice chair of the Rules Committee is Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeao.

PAYOUTS REVIEW

Galeai recalled the governor’s address before the joint session of the Fono on Monday about the massive payout of annual, sick leave and compensatory time for outgoing directors of the last administration totaling $734,000. Additionally, payouts remain for some of the former directors, which would bring the total to $1.01 million. The payouts include those for the out-going governor and lieutenant governor.

Galeai said he would like to know, and is sure that other senators want to know as well, who actually received payouts and if the money was budgeted in the FY 2013 budget, since there were concerns from the Lolo administration of unbudgeted expenditures.

He also said that it’s new to him, that an outgoing governor and lieutenant governor receive payouts, adding that he has never heard of such practice in any other U.S. jurisdiction, even the federal government itself.

Galeai called on the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for a complete and comprehensive review of these payouts, to see if they were legally done and if any of these payouts were budgeted at all.

In past years, the government has a very bad habit of spending on unbudgeted expenses and this is a clear violation, said Galeai, who pointed out that such illegal practice should be halted and for the government to fully comply with budget laws.

He said if the government is to set a good example for the territory’s future generations, this spending without approval of the Fono should be halted. (During the last four years, Galeai has repeated this call, after the administration revealed expenditures that the Fono claimed were never in the FY 2012 budget).

BUDGET COMMITTEE

For the payouts, Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman Laolagi F.S. Vaeao says inquiries will be made to the appropriate government agencies for records and information, and meetings will be held with these agencies if needed. He said a report will be provided after a clearer picture of the payouts is obtained.

For the deficit, Laolagi said the governor’s written official State of the Territory Address that was distributed to lawmakers includes specific details of the deficit but the committee will at the same time seek updated information from the appropriate government agencies.

The one person who knows a great deal more about the payouts and the deficit is former ASG Treasurer Magalei Logovi’i, who is now a senator and the co-chair of the Senate budget committee. Magalei, who was present at yesterday’s session, didn’t speak about these two issues, although some in the Senate gallery were hoping that Magalei would say at least something about it.

ASG DEFICIT

In the meantime, Soliai recalled the governor’s address which states in part that the current ASG deficit stands at more than $44 million and growing, and the Senate should have additional information by later this month because the numbers given by the governor were only during the first nine-days of the administration.

He said this issue is very important to the Senate as the new legislature gets underway, when among matters for review is the government’s current financial status. He said a more updated deficit total should be given to the Fono and requested the budget committee for their help.

The Samoa News: http://www.samoanews.com/
Copyright 2013. The Samoa News. All Rights Reserved


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