Cutting unnecessary spending

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Hot on the news this week is the fact that cost of living has once more increased on these shores. With the price of basic food items costing you more and kicking the poor even harder where it hurts the most, it’s imperative we start to think of ways to reduce public spending so that some of the benefits are reaped by members of this community. 

The truth is there for all to see. While no one is saying anything yet, an increase in the menacing tax called the V.A.G.S.T is not beyond the realm of possibilities. Which will be the last thing the people of this country need.

Today, let’s think about some ways where we can save public monies that could otherwise be useful to reduce the cost of living so that the impact of it could be at least cushioned for the most vulnerable members of society. We are talking about the poor and members of society at the lower echelons of the economic ladder. 

Which brings us to a question we have asked before and we will ask again. Are advisory boards to the government really necessary? Before we go any further, we want to reiterate that we believe the government needs sound advice so it can make informed decisions about issues and policies that impact on the country.

But how much advice is enough sound advice? How many advisors does the government need to make these decisions? And how much money do taxpayers need to fork out to ensure the government gets all the advice it needs? 

After all, think about the countless consultants who are getting paid ridiculous amounts for advice that is hardly ever used.

Now when it comes to the question of advisory representatives in the villages, we believe they are political appointments we don’t need. Speaking of which, some time ago, Falealupo’s Member of Parliament, Aeau Peniamina Leavai questioned the need for advisory boards. Calling them “unnecessary, inappropriate and a waste of time and money,” Aeau said members of such boards exist because they are “cronies” of the government. Well he had a point.

Advisory boards by the way consist of representatives chosen to be the eyes and ears of the government in the community. Now, with nearly 150 villages in Samoa, their existence is costing this country a lot of money. And with that in mind, Aeau argued they are unnecessary and should therefore be done away with. 

“The cost of having such boards are being put back on members of the public.”

And that was not his only concern.

Ae’au added that “most members lack understanding” of the issues they deal with and are there only because they support the HRPP.

“It’s inappropriate. It’s the public who are funding for their existence. They are paying for the overseas trips but I don’t know what they do. That’s money being spent unnecessarily.”

The veteran politician said the government should clean them out so the Ministries can do their work without the unnecessary interference.

“That’s why we have people holding those senior positions within those Ministries,” Aeau said referring to Cabinet Ministers, Associate Ministers, Chief Executive Officers and Assistant Chief Executives. CEOs and their workers are “experts, skilled, capable and should know better.”

Aeau’s got a valid point. Why do you need more advisors on top of public servants who are already costing this country an arm and a leg? Naturally, you’d expect Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi to disagree at the time. And he did.

“We don’t take one set of advice,” he responded. “We take as many pieces of advice as possible, there is no end [in our effort] to seek the best possible decision.

“When we make a sound decision, we must take into account all the advice from the C.E.Os, from the Boards, Parliamentarians and people in the country. It is then up to us to sort it out and make the best decision.

“That’s why the role of Advisory Boards is necessary.”

The Prime Minister also denied the suggestion that Advisory Boards undermine C.E.Os and their workers.

“The C.E.O is the head of the corporation or ministry or whatever. They are put there for a reason. The Advisory boards merely act as just that, Advisors.”

At the time of the debate, a member of one advisory board defended their existence. He wrote that these boards are “eyes for the Ministry” and they “have a lot of work to do” to justify their fortnightly salaries.

For instance, “the work of the committee,” he says, “includes surveillance inspections to ensure the sound and safe condition of the existing natural resources, and follow up enforcement of the government environmental policies and the applicable laws and regulations.”

He adds: “What I am trying to clarify here is that it is not the existence and the money spent on the committees that matters. There is a lot of work out there that needs to be done. As long as the committees are organized properly and put competent leadership there.”

Well. But let’s remind the writer here that “money spent on the committees [does] matter.” It’s taxpayers’ money and if the government is spending it unwisely, it should be stopped.

Our economy is already struggling. Think of our foreign debt that’s well over $1.5billion. Then think of the dying exports market. What kind of future will this country have?

The time has come for the government to start looking seriously at cutting unnecessary spending. And considering the advisory boards is a good start. Why do we need them when the Government is already paying for the pulenu’u and most recently a representative of women in the villages?

What these boards basically come down to is a clever (if we may use that word) political ploy to keep these people subservient to the government. Politics is about winning power and keeping it as long as you can.

The government knows that as long as you pay these people well – they will go out of their way to make sure the villages are singing the H.R.P.P’s tune come election year. And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that’s precisely what’s been happening in Samoa.

The H.R.P.P is applying the same tactics in the running of government. 

How else can you justify those ridiculous salaries for Cabinet Ministers, Associate Ministers, C.E.Os, A.C.E.Os and senior officials within the public service?

It is no secret that the government is paying crazy sums of money to attract the country’s brightest minds to the public sector. How is the private sector ever going to compete with those salaries?

But then that’s not the point here. The fact is that the cost of living has become ridiculously expensive for many people in this country. While there are external factors beyond the government’s control, a major contributor to this is the amount of public monies being wasted through such unnecessary committees and boards, which should be disbanded immediately. There are many other ways where public monies are being wasted but we think this is a pretty good start.

What about you? Write and share your thoughts with us. 

Have a fantastic Friday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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