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Senate calls to investigate Admin for “misuse” of FY2023 surplus funds

Senate Vice President Magalei Logovi’i
Seeks an Independent Prosecutor for investigation

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Senate Vice President Magalei Logovi’i on Tuesday introduced a Senate Resolution which “seeks to investigate the misuse of the unbudgeted and unobligated revenue of Fiscal Year 2023 in the amount of $36 million and calls for the Attorney General to petition the court for an Independent Prosecutor to conduct a fair and impartial investigation into the unlawful use of these funds that are in direct violation of Public Law 37-12.”

This single resolution has been introduced due to the House of Representatives’ inaction on the Senate Joint Resolution which deals with the same issue.

The new resolution states that “it is the Legislature that passes the budget and once signed by the Governor, the budget becomes law that the executive must enforce.

“No officer or employee of the government may make or authorize an expenditure from or create or authorize an obligation under any appropriation or fund in excess of the amount available therein; nor may officers or employees involve the government in contracts or other obligations, for the payment of money for any purpose, in advance of appropriations made for that purpose unless the contract or obligation is authorized by law.”

“The ‘appropriation’ mentioned in the law refers to the budget law passed by the Legislature,” the resolution clarified.

The law also provides that “any officer or employee of the government who knowingly violates this subsection is subjected to not only administrative discipline which may include suspension or removal from office, but also shall be charged with a Class D felony.”

“Unbudgeted revenue received during Fiscal Year 2023 shall not be expended for any purpose unless first authorized and appropriated by the Legislature. The Governor shall notify the Legislature promptly upon receipt of unbudgeted revenue,” the resolution emphasized.

It also mentions Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean informing senators about a meeting he and House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale had with Governor Lemanu P.S. Mauga and Lt. Governor Talaeuga E.V. Ale on September 22, 2023 where the Governor revealed that the executive branch had already spent the $36 million surplus from FY2023, despite acknowledging they knew the law requires them to report any new revenue to the Legislature for appropriation.

The administration later submitted an appropriations bill for the Fono to authorize the spending of the surplus money — that was already spent.

According to the Senate resolution, the bill that the administration presented “is at the very least misleading, It panders to an administration who does not honor nor uphold the law, nor the boundaries between the branches of government. It is disrespectful of the checks and balances system that exists to prevent the exact behavior they are engaging in.

“The supplemental bill is an affront to our Western form of democracy as well as our traditional Samoan culture.

They have usurped the Legislature’s legal duty to appropriate monies needed to run our government as a whole.”

It went on to say, “It is arrogant of the Executive Branch to assume the Legislature will just ‘forgive’ them for breaking the law. The Legislature has no jurisdiction over ‘forgiveness’ of illegal acts.

“Only God can forgive us of our sins.”

The measure calls on AG Fainu’ulelei Falefatu Alailima-Utu to apply for appointment of an Independent Prosecutor to investigate and create a record of this “blatant disregard for the rule of law” by the Executive Branch.

During Tuesday’s Senate session Senate President Tuaolo asked Senator Magalei what the Senate will do if the AG does not act on this resolution.

He pointed out that if the AG has referred the matter involving the Director of the Department of Human Resources in allegations of assault to the Chief Justice, then he should do the same for this matter.

Magalei replied that if the AG does not act on the resolution, then the matter should also be referred to court.

The AG has 30 days to respond to the Legislature and if no application is made for appointment of an IP, the AG must submit a report to the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain why.