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Claims all tsunami funds won’t be used for recovery

By Marieta Heidi Ilalio APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Jan. 24, 2010) – In Samoa, an Opposition MP yesterday accused the government hiding how the tsunami relief funds will be spent.

And Levaopolo Talatonu MP of Gagaemauga No. 2 says he can prove it.

He said a breakdown of the supplementary budget was given to him by a Human Rights protection Party (HRPP) MP and it shows that the government will not use all the money for the tsunami recovery.

In Parliament on the second day of the session, Levaopolo asked the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Taua Kitiona, to explain if any livestock were destroyed by the tsunami because it shows in the supplementary breakdown that 400,000 tala [US$159,000] will be given for that purpose.

The reply from the chairman of the Financial Committee, Tuiloma Lameko, said it was for all families with livestock destroyed by the tsunami.

Levaopolo said the reply was not acceptable and it’s more evidence of the government misusing the funds given for tsumami relief and reconstruction.

"There were no livestock taken by the tsunami and the public knows this," Levaopolo said.

The second issue he raised is the 74,000 tala [US$30,000] given for Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) staff overtime.

"There are only three people working in that ministry," he said.

"It doesn’t make sense."

He said the police do not have overtime and yet they received only 350,000 tala [US$140,000].

"But there’s more than 300 police and the money given for their allowances is not enough," he said.

"And yet the MCIT only have a few staff and they get a huge amount of money for overtime."

Another 500,000 tala [US$199,000] was also given to the MCIT for wireless recovery but Levaopolo said MCIT does not provide this service.

"They only have one satellite on the east side of the Fono and wireless services are provided by Digicel and Samoa Tel," he said.

"I’m still confused about this supplementary breakdown."

Levaopolo said the opposition was not allowed to look into this report and now he knows why.

"I know why because there is a lot of nonsense in it," he said.

The supplementary also includes up to 9 million tala [US$3.6 million] for 500 houses.

But Levaopolo said the government is only building 347 houses.

"So these 347 houses times 18,000 tala [US$7,000] per house means they will only spend 3.7 million tala [US$1.2 million]," he said.

"So where is the other 5.3 million tala [US$2.1 million] going?

"It still doesn’t make sense and yet the Minister of Finance said the government will build 500 houses different from the ones other organizations are working on."

He said the outline given is not acceptable.

"I feel sorry for all people who donated but the government is hiding something here," he said.

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