A $12million supplementary budget tabled by the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, has been passed.
The budget was approved on Tuesday during Parliament’s first session for 2017. The key priorities are:
• $7,000,000 to the Statutory Vote
• $2,000,000 additional funds for Income Tax Refunds
• $274,134 for the Legislative Assembly
• $709, 885 for the Ministry of Communication
• $1,934,828 for the Ministry of Education
• $225,000 for the Ministry of Finance
• $353,569.73 for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
• $825,080 for the Ministry of Health
• $233,962 for the Ministry of Justice
• $161,440 for the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure
• $680,000 for the National Health Services
During the budget debate, many M.P.s raised issues in relation to developments within their constituencies and villages.
Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, acknowledged the issues raised and welcomed the concerns expressed.
“The feedback from my perspective was very positive,” Sili told the Samoa Observer. “I think it was encouraging to see most of the Parliamentarians speaking up and provide advice as to where we should be heading and what we should be doing.”
Sili added that he would take into account the recommendations as he prepares the main estimates for this financial year.
“The feedback can help us do better when we prepare for the main estimates for this year. We will take into account some of the suggestions from the other M.Ps on how we can improve in terms of the financial planning and the allocation of resource.
“Also we will look carefully at the areas that we should prioritise to ensure that we respond to the needs of our people expressed by their M.P’s. So to me, the feedback was very positive; it was very pleasing as well.
“I like that fact that a lot of them commented and supported the supplementary estimates for this year and they were also happy with the fact that we are trying to consolidate.
“I think there were only one or two M.P’s who said that maybe we were too conservative but you know our message that was delivered through the budget statement for the main estimates in June.”
Sili was referring to the theme of the Main Budget for the last financial year which is “living within our means.”
“We need to make sure that we have the resources and that we don’t over commit and then we run into deficit,” he said.
“I am very a strong believer that we need to pay attention to our financial management. In this way we focus on what the main priorities are and to develop the economy and to ensure we don’t over depend on borrowings.
“We also need to make sure that the capacity of the public sector is at the level where we can make best uses of our resources and resources from our development partners.
“We don’t want to find out at the end of a financial year that we have borrowings in which we might have received funding for a number of projects in which we did not implement well.”
Sili said one of his focuses is to build capacity of the different government ministries to ensure that they are able to implement and make good use of resources and funding. This can be done if his Ministry continues to monitor and evaluate the implementation of projects by the different ministries.
“We also need to ensure that our procurement process and tendering process is fair and that everybody has the opportunity to bid.”
Sili said it would probably take him another year to see where we are now, where we want to be and what we need to do.
“We need to go slow; that’s really my perspective of what we need to do. We need to make sure, that if there are problems, if the ministries are not making good use of money, then we will look at how we can improve on their capacity.
“(Then) the Ministry of Finance will consult with the different ministries so that they can understand what their constraints are and whether they understand the process of use of funds and the reporting.
“As you know, for the funding that we get from development partners, and the ones we borrow from the multilateral institutions, we need to account for them. We need to make sure that we deliver what they are expecting us to do.”
Sili also stated that they are also aware that they need to improve their service delivery to the people of Samoa.
“We need to connect with them and listen to them,” said Sili. “We need to look at whether we need to change our systems and the way we do work to make sure that we respond to their needs, and our people expect us to do it. I am a strong believer that we need to make sure that the government and all its agencies, Ministries do respond and connect with our people.”