In yesterday’s Samoa News front page story, headlined “ASG 1st quarter report — Fono only branch overspending its budget”, the Legislative Financial Officer (LFO) Talalemotu Mauga took issue with the headline, saying that using the words “overspending its budget” - regarding the Fono was incorrect. He says there was no mentioned in the letter, cited as the source of the story, that used the word “overspending”.
He is correct — Samoa News used the word “overspending” to describe the following statement by the Office of Budget and Planning in its Feb. 13 cover letter to the First Quarter Report. In it, the budget director Catherine A. Saelua writes to the governor, in part that, the first quarter ended “on an optimistic note” with the Executive, Judicial and Special Programs all operating within their 1st quarter budget apportionment — except for the Legislature.
Also, according to data included in Saelua’s Feb. 13 letter, the Fono’s approved FY 2017 total budget is $6.91 million, with 28% (or $1.93 million) expended in the first quarter, leaving a “year-to-date” (YTD) balance of just over $4.98 million. The Fono’s annual budget is fully funded by local revenues.
Samoa News understands a quarterly budget is 25% of 100%, and notes that the Fono expended 28% of its budget in the first quarter.
Hence, Samoa News defined “except for the Legislature” — as “overspending” by the Fono in the 1st quarter, by exceeding by 3% its 25% apportionment of its total budget.
However, according to the LFO, “As a matter of fact, the Fono saved $169,832” at the end of the first quarter, Dec. 31, 2016, and pointed out that the numbers cited in Saelua’s letter are not right.
“It’s up to us [Fono] how we submit our quarterly apportionment — either 25% or 28% — depending on our needs in the first quarter, which is when there are a lot of needs” at the start of the new fiscal year, he explained.
“Then we control our spending” during the rest of the quarters of the fiscal year, he said, and noted that when the Fono’s first quarter performance report was submitted to the Executive Branch, the first quarter apportionment didn’t have an overrun — but a savings.”