$50,000 catering expenses tops list of Government budget blowouts

Catering expenses incurred by officials at over a dozen Government-run corporations totalled over $50,000 according to a monitoring report on public budgets.

A total of 13 government corporations for the September quarter in 2017/2018 overspent catering allocations to the tune of $58,500 tala.

Catering for senior government officials topped the list for Government overspending with more than ten corporations exceeding their full year appropriation. 

Figures of the expenditures are revealed in the Budget Monitoring Report for the period in question indicating that the ministries had spent “beyond the full year appropriation”. 

Catering expenses are limited to the Minister and Chief Executive Officer’s outputs of $6,000 tala. 

At the top of the list is the Ministry of Justice Courts and Administration (M.J.C.A.) which exceed its budget nearly two times, or the equivalent of $11,460 tala.  

Not far behind was the Ministry of Police and the Samoa Prisons Corrections Services (S.P.C.S.) which spent $12,840 between them. 

Other ministries that overspent on food include the Ministry of Works, Ministry of Natural Resources, Education, Public Service Commission, Revenue, Ministry of Women, Electoral Office, Finance and Health. 

Travel is also another area that has attracted overspending in more than ten ministries. 

According to the report, travel expenditures stood was some 34 percent above pro rata, which was attributed to 13 corporations spending well above their mandates. 

The report added the overspending is due to “unplanned travel particularly ad hoc training opportunities offered by development partners and regional organisations”.

Official travel is Cabinet authorised and only the Ministers and C.E.Os are authorised to be fully funded under the local budget whilst all other Government officials have to be partially funded by development partners. 

Next on the list were donations with an overspending total of $15,120 from the Legislative Assembly (96 percent) and the Ministry of Education (30 percent). 

Donations on behalf of Government are limited to $12,000 allocated under the Minister's output and is only authorized by the Minister for “official purposes only” the report noted.

Fuel overspending shows a total of $7250 for the September quarter 2017/2018. 

The report recommended for corporations to ensure no new initiatives are approved for funding in the financial year unless “source of funding and additional revenues are identified to accommodate” it.

“Ministries overall operations should be strictly monitored especially the catering and travel related expenses as it has a high utilisation rate at 100 percent and 81 percent,” noted the report.

Ministries are encouraged to seek “external funding for priority meetings and workshops”. 

“Ministries who have been identified at risk of budget overrun should ensure that they control spending within the last quarters of the financial year, particularly for the expenditures highlighted to ensure efficient use of resources…”

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