By: Eoghan Olkeriil Ngirudelsang

Sonsorol governor Nicholas Aguino has requested the Senate to earmark the block grant to Sonsorol State, especially the amount intended to increase state government employees’ salaries by  75 cents.

In the budget hearing with Sonsorol State four days ago, September 8, many senators were surprised to learn that within Sonsorol State, there are four “municipalities,” each with their own governments. Dongosaro, Pulo Anna, Fanna, and Meriil have their own legislative councils and chief executives, also known as magistrates.

This government setup is causing financial accountability issues, according to Sonsorol governor Nicholas Aguino. “I have filed so it is now in court; summons have been given to the chiefs of each island” who serve as chief executives or magistrates.

It was revealed that each municipality has its own treasury and that the constitution of Sonsorol mandates that state block grants allocated to Sonsorol by the national government shall be divided in half; the first half must be further divided among all municipalities and the state equally. The remaining second half is spent at the discretion of the state governor and as the state legislature appropriates.

The governor added that the court case he is initiating is to “remove the chief executives and combine treasuries so that (Sonsorol) will be like the rest of Palau’s states.” However, when asked by Senator Tellames for details of his case, he did not comment.

The governor further said that “by state law, the municipalities must submit their financial reports on a quarterly basis; however, some municipalities have poor financial reports, so we hold their money.”

One of the main topics of the Senate Committee of Ways & Means and Financial Matters (WMFM) budget hearings with all 16 states is the increase of salaries of state government employees. Last year, in 2023, President Whipps initiated a 75-cent increase to full-time government employees. In the proposed FY 2024 budget, another $0.75 increase to all government and state employees is proposed to raise government and state employees to a minimum of 5 dollars per hour. The Senate gives this proposed wage increase for 2024 as part of state block grants.

In light of this, Governor Aguino requested that a special language or condition clause be added to the budget bill similar to the 2023 increase to earmark the block grant increase to state employees’ salary so that it won’t be subject to the block grants division requirement that is mandated in their constitution

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *