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Unpaid increments should be deleted from budget

If the government continues to use the approved annual increments to hire new people instead, Sen. Galeai M. Tu’ufuli has suggested that they delete all increments proposed in the fiscal year 2016 budget when the Fono Joint Budget Committee returns today for the final budget debate.


Galeai’s recommendation was made at last Friday’s Senate session following testimonies heard early last week during joint budget hearings from Human Resources director Sonny L. Thompson, who testified that money appropriated for increments is being used to hire new employees with base salaries of $10,000 and this brings in more tax revenue for the government. However, Sen. Magalei Logovi’i has questioned the legality of using these funds for increments to hire new people, as well as naysaying tax revenue benefits. (See Samoa News edition Sept. 18 for details).


Galeai told senators on Friday that the law is clear on increments appropriated in the budget, saying it is for current employees — not to hire new people. He said people in the government are not following the law.


And if increments have not been paid to employees of the government in the last three years, the senator said, he believes increments proposed in the FY 2016 budget should be deleted altogether.


Galeai asked Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeao, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, to figure out the total amount of increments for the government being proposed in FY 2016.


If the government is not going to pay increments to employees, then the Fono shouldn’t allocate any money for them in the new fiscal year, he said, adding that increments should be taken out of the final budget and the total amount reallocated for better use, putting the funds where they’re needed for other government services.


Galeai also reminded Laolagi of an earlier request he made during joint budget hearings for a complete report on the governor’s “apprenticeship” program, in which the government invested money to employ returning graduates with degrees in both the public and private sector.


When Thompson appeared last Monday for his department’s budget review, Galeai said that if it’s the governor’s wish to assist returning graduates with degrees by putting them to work, the Fono is not against such action, and later noted that this program can prove to be successful if the government implements plans accordingly.


However, he says policies and procedures governing this program should be in writing and presented to the Fono for review, adding that the Fono’s concern is that the Administration is using funds that were not allocated or included in the approved budget.


He says the Fono wants to know why this program was created, as well as the total amount of money needed to fund it. The senators also want to know who qualifies for this program.


Galeai stressed that the Fono is not against these good programs, but the administration needs to provide a report for lawmakers in order to review and better understand them.


During a cabinet meeting earlier this month, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga announced that the government spent $2 million a year on the program, which has been criticized by some members of the public. (See Samoa News edition Sept. 10 for details)


The Fono’s joint budget committee convenes today to debate the final language of the FY 2016 budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1, 2015.


Of note, the Fono leaders have already informed Laolagi and joint budget committee co-chair Rep. Timusa Tini Lam Yuen to find money in the budget proposal to restore the 10% the administration cut from the Fono’s FY 2016 budget, which was originally submitted to the Executive Branch with a total of $7.68 million, but had been reduced by the executive branch to a total of $6.19 million. The senators maintain that due to ‘separation of powers’, the executive branch has no right to change the budget the legislative branch submitted for FY 2016.