L.T.A. locally-funded projects halted

All locally-funded projects under the supervision of the Land Transport Authority have been halted due to uncertainty over funding, as officials feel the impact of the absence of Parliament-sanctioned budgetary appropriations.

The halting of the projects was implemented before the Ministry of Finance unveiled its emergency week-to-week financial plan last week to keep the Government afloat over as it awaits a complete budget.

L.T.A. Board Chairman Taua Paul Phillips confirmed the halting of the projects supervised by the authority when contacted by the Samoa Observer.

“We have put a hold on the locally funded [road work] projects. The management has been advised not to terminate the contracts; but to delay the implementation of the projects,” said Taua.

“This also applies to projects already underway but are not near completion [in Savaii].”

Taua was unable to specify the estimated value of the projects and whether it is in the millions, but only confirmed that it is a substantive amount.

The L.T.A. Board conducted a site visit to Savai’i earlier this month as it has the most impacted projects underway on the big island. 

Taua dismissed claims that the budget will not have an impact on the day-to-day operations of the authority.

“Operation is not to be affected for any reason and this includes the road maintenance works.”

Road maintenance falls under the “essential services” as the L.T.A. has set aside funds to assist with the maintenance, he said. 

Last week plans for all major Ministerial restructure were suspended for the foreseeable future, announced the Ministry of Finance.

Interim provisions have been put in place to tide Government operations over until Parliament is convened and new fiscal year appropriations have been approved.

The rules for operating within budget constraints are contained within a memorandum issued by the Ministry's Chief Executive Officer, Leasiosiofaasisina Oscar Malielegaoi, dated 6 July 2021 which was obtained by the Samoa Observer.

“In accordance with Article 94 of the Constitution of the Independent State of Samoa, any new policies and initiatives requested by your agencies and discussed with the Ministry of Finance (M.O.F.) for the new fiscal year, has been suspended until the new budget has been approved in Parliament," the finance chief says.

But the legality of appropriating funds without Parliament's prior approval has been questioned by the leader of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, whose party now holds a 26-20 simple majority over the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) that is currently the caretaker Government.

More than $22 million has been spent by the Government on road maintenance in Upolu and Savai’i over a two-year period since 2017. The figures were highlighted in the Lands and Transport Authority (L.T.A.) Annual Report for Financial Year 2019-2020.

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