Clerk of Parliament explains $200,000 political parties fund

The Clerk of Parliament, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, has explained how a $200,000 fund allocated for political parties in the Legislative Assembly’s $6.5 million budget, is distributed.

The explanation was in response to queries from the Samoa Observer about the money given there is only one official party in Parliament, the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.).

”The allocation for political parties is a one line item and it’s an appropriation to assist political parties with their developments,” Tiatia said.

“Since there is only one recognized political party, an equal distribution of this fund is disbursed to every Member of Parliament including the three Independent members on an annual basis to assist with their electorates.”

There are currently 50 Members of Parliament, which means each member takes a share of $4,000 from the $200,000.

The benefit is one of the top expenses under the Legislative Assembly budget, aside from its rent and daily operation costs.

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Other benefits that M.Ps are entitled to include Parliamentary gifts when members and former members pass away. Current and former Cabinet Ministers are entitled to $10,000 while ordinary current and former M.Ps are entitled to $6,000. A total fund of $60,000 has been appropriated in the current financial year for these gifts.

 The Clerk also addressed queries regarding a $25,000 allocation for the Maota o le Fono Grand Opening.

“The Grand Opening allocation in the Annual Budget provided for external costs not included in the project fund,”  Tiatia said.

 “For instance, the external decorations (fau/tapa designs) decorations to reflect a Samoan fale, and all the logistics and catering for the hand-over and opening.

“Be informed that there were also gifts presentations on that day for the Government of Australia Representative.”

Prior to dedication of the new Parliament house that was co-funded by the government of Australia, Parliament proceedings were conducted at the Tuanaimato Sports complex and the T.A.T.T.E. Convention Centre.

The budget for 2019-2020 notes that a total Rent paid for Tuanaimato when the office was utilising the premises was $459,750. This was paid to Ministry of Finance.

The Clerk explained that the expensive rent covers for two buildings utilised by Legislative Assembly; the S.I.D.s. Media Centre and gymnasium 2 which was temporary Parliamentary chamber.

A further $20,000 was used to account for relocation from Tuanaimato to Mulinu’u.

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