The Ministry of Finance has warned that it will not fund Ministry retreats and all Government workshops should be held in urban areas.
The hardline position taken by the Ministry is outlined in the FK (14)21, which re-emphasized and outlined its position, as part of recommendations in the Ministry of Finance’s full year performance analysis for Fiscal year 2016-2017.
“No more ministry retreats will be funded by Government and that all Government workshops are to be held in and around the urban area and that overnights for any official purposes are strictly disallowed,” the report says.
The Government’s overall spending on current payments for the 12 months up to June 2016 stood at $593.5 million (96 per cent utilisation).
Ministry expenditures topped 97 per cent and was attributed to savings created under transactions on behalf of State and personnel costs, stated the Ministry in its report.
The report further indicated that despite continued support and advice from the Ministry of Finance, there are still Ministries that fail to comply with key policies and procedures outlined in the Public Finance Management Act, Treasury Instructions and the Public Service Commission Human Resource Manual.
“As well as key Cabinet Directives that guide the implementation of the Government of Samoa Main Estimates, as the Appropriation Act that is passed each year in Parliament comprises of the Appropriation Act, the Main Estimates and key performance Measures.”
According to Ministry report, many Ministries fail to realise that the key performance measures outline the works that should be implemented during the financial year, given the estimates appropriated to them at that time.
“Ministries tend to change these measures themselves during the financial year without realizing that said measures have been made into law,” the report stated.
Another issue pointed out by Ministry is the use of government vehicles for personal and after-hours use
“The Public Finance Management Regulations 2015 on Use of Government Vehicles clearly stipulate which personnel are authorised to drive Government vehicles as well as highlight the garaging of all vehicles after hours."
“Many Ministries continue to exceed their fuel expenditures from quarter to quarter and there are still sightings of A.C.E.O's who take Government vehicles to their homes,” stated the report.
Furthermore, the Ministry report also highlighted the misuse of the unforeseen vote, which “is to be used strictly for large operating or capital initiatives of Government that were not foreseen at the time of budget particularly in the events of a natural disaster”.
“Many Ministries have attempted to utilize the Unforeseen for minor operating expenditures that could be allocated to savings.”
In relation to overtime, the Ministry report noted that the treasury instructions, which is legally mandated under the Public Finance Management Act, is clear on the utilisation of overtime appropriation – in that it must be kept at a minimum and within the appropriations provided.
“This is also stipulated within the Public Service Commission's HR Manual. Further, Ministries tend to operate with savings at the individual output level, but it is imperative that the Central Services Unit consider the need to ensure that sufficient savings are available to offset over utilised outputs. And categories across the Ministry so that at the end of the fiscal year, the utilisation does not go beyond 100 percent of estimates.”
The Ministry report also acknowledged the significance of capacity building opportunities for the service, and stated that it is imperative the Ministries consider their appropriations for each financial year when accepting travel.
However, the report recommended that it is critical for the Ministries to ensure that only the most critical of meetings and trainings are prioritised.
“Many Ministries' operating budgets and therefore their abilities to implement key performances are affected due to unbudgeted travel.”
Furthermore, Ministry report also recommended that the Cabinet Directive clearly highlights that all catering at any Government event is kept to a minimum and that any offers by Government to host international or regional meetings are to be partially funded.
The report also recommended the emphasising of FK (15)13, which directs that no uniforms for any Government event is to be funded from the Government budget other than the Independence Day celebrations.
The Cabinet also placed a hold on all new positions due to the noticeable expansion in the service, as indicated under FK (16).
The Ministry report also noted that FK(15)13 directs all statutory bodies and state -owned enterprises, which are not under Public Service Commission jurisdiction, seek Cabinet authorisation for any personnel and organizational structure changes.