Head of State to Approve Unappropriated Public Expenditure

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29 June 2021, Apia Samoa. Caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has issued a statement to say, “there is no need to be panic” as Samoa officially runs out of time to have its 2021-2022 main estimates passed by an Appropriation Bill in Parliament as required by its Constitution.

Addressing the nation to deliver an official prepared statement, Tuilaepa says unlike other countries like the USA, Samoa has provisions in its Constitution and Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) to allow for such situations.

“Under normal circumstances, the whole of Government machinery must close down as it happened in many countries of the world with similar political challenges.  Fortunately, we have enabling provisions both in the Constitution and in the Public Finance Management Act to facilitate a smooth continuation of approval of unappropriated public expenditure under warrants of payment certified by the Audit Office and approved by the Head of State who is the sole authority to pay or issue money out of the Treasury Fund..”

The statement does not give the relevant sections of the Public Finance Management Act 2001, but does reveal that the caretaker government is relying on Article 93 of the Constitution which states:

93. Payment out of public funds: No money shall be issued out of the Treasury Fund or any other public fund or account except in pursuance of a warrant under the hand of the Head of State.

Calling it an economic emergency, the Caretake Prime Minister says the Audit Office will monitor and continue its auditing function, and internal controls will be closely coordinated between the Auditor General and all Chief Executive Officers of Public Entities.

“The Audit Office which reports directly to the Legislative Assembly being an Office of Parliament will continue its time monitoring and auditing function of the National Treasury and the cash position of the other public bodies and enterprises.”

Despite Samoa being in unchartered waters, the Caretaker Prime Minister says the measures Cabinet have decided to take, have been applied on previous occasions.

“The usage of the authorization of payments out of the Treasury Fund or in any other Fund under the system utilized is not new.  It was used before in other similar emergency situations confronted by Government.”

The official address does not give a statement of the estimated receipts and expenditure for the 2021/2022 year, or the emergency period for which the interim authority over unappropriated expenditure would apply.

The Ministry of Finance last week assured their priority was to ensure there would be no interruptions to essential services and covid-19 safety initiatives, and would be committed to the continuity of Government operations and payment of public sector salaries.

Relating to the 2021/2022 Main Estimates, the Ministry said a draft was completed in May 2021 as required by the PFM Act, and it was awaiting to be passed in Parliament.

“In line with Article 94 of the Constitution of the Independent State of Samoa, the new fiscal year draft budget is currently awaiting approval by the XVIIth Parliament when it convenes for this purpose”, read the Ministry of Finance press statement.

This week, the Supreme Court set down an order directing Parliament to convene within 7 days – on or before Monday 5th July 2021.

Caretaker Prime Minister Official Address published in verbatim:

Tonight – I wish to make a special announcement that tomorrow 30 June 2021 is the last day of the current Fiscal Year from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.  And we have yet to convene a properly constituted Legislative Assembly in accordance with Articles III and 44 of the Constitution of the Independent State of Samoa for reasons that are already well known and under dispute.

Under normal circumstances, the whole of Government machinery must close down as it happened in many countries of the world with similar political challenges.  Fortunately, we have enabling provisions both in the Constitution and in the Public Finance Management Act to facilitate a smooth continuation of approval of unappropriated public expenditure under warrants of payment certified by the Audit Office and approved by the Head of State, who is the sole authority to pay or issue money out of the Treasury Fund or from any other Public Fund under Article 93 of the Constitution and in line with the validity period of proclamations authorized under the Constitution. So there is no need to be panic. 

The Audit Office which reports directly to the Legislative Assembly being an Office of Parliament will continue its time monitoring and auditing function of the National Treasury and the cash position of the other public bodies and enterprises.  Other internal controls during this economic emergency will also be closely coordinated with all the Chief Executive Officers of Public Entities.

The usage of the authorization of payments out of the Treasury Fund or in any other Fund under the system utilized is not new.  It was used before in other similar emergency situations confronted by Government.

I thank you for your patience, kind understanding and prayers.  

May God Bless Samoa