It was Gov. Benigno R. Fitial who asked Procurement and Supply director Herman S. Sablan to issue an advance payment to Integrated Professional Solutions LLC's Michael Ada, one day before a sole-source $392,406 ARRA management contract was fully executed on Oct. 13, 2010-something that some members of the Special Committee on Impeachment found unusual, given that the contractor is normally the one that asks for an advance payment.
This and other details were discussed as the impeachment hearings on Capital Hill entered its fourth day yesterday.
Most of the details discussed related to the ARRA contract awarded to Ada were already known to the public since 2010, like the fact that he was awarded the contract just days after resigning his post as a member of Fitial's Cabinet.
One of the most compelling testimonies yesterday came from Office of the Public Auditor legal counsel George Hasselback.
“I'm simply pointing out the facts that, yes, this contract violates CNMI procurement law, this contract violated ethics provisions of CNMI law, and the former attorney general knew or should have known about it,” he said.
Fitial and former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham approved the contract within days after Ada resigned as Commerce secretary.
Initially, the Fitial administration announced that Ada resigned because he's pursuing his studies. It turned out that Ada was to be awarded the ARRA management contract, whose scope of work was the same as what he was doing while he was also Commerce secretary.
“This contract was negotiated, fleshed out, and written by a government employee with the involvement and at the direction of the governor, while that government employee was still an employee,” Hasselback added.
The Impeachment Committee, late yesterday afternoon, called in acting attorney general Viola Alepuyo to testify on former attorney general Buckingham's alleged hosting of a delegate candidate in 2010.
But Rep. Frank Dela Cruz (R-Saipan) made a motion to dismiss Alepuyo for conflict of interest. Alepuyo is the wife of the delegate candidate that Buckingham allegedly hosted at the governor's private residence in 2010. That former delegate candidate is now Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph Camacho.
Public Auditor Michael Pai, in his testimony, said the investigation is over but the matter has not been resolved. Fitial didn't heed OPA's recommendations.
The Impeachment Committee, chaired by Rep. Joe Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan), is reviewing a resolution impeaching the governor for 16 allegations of corruption, neglect of duty, and felony.
Among those issues are the sole-source award of the almost $400,000 ARRA management contract and the governor's failure to remove his then attorney general for allegedly violating the Hatch Act and other election-related laws and rules.
The Senate told OPA last year to further investigate the ARRA contract award, saying that the U.S. Interior's Inspector General July 2011 report is not definitive in its conclusion.
The 13-page contract was for 18 months and was awarded days after Ada stepped down on Oct. 9, 2010.
Fitial had asked Ada to remain as the CNMI state lead for ARRA program because he is the “lone individual in the CNMI with historical and current knowledge and skill set required to manage the ARRA funds awarded to the CNMI.”
The governor said at the time that the CNMI government stands to risk jeopardizing some $90 million in ARRA money if it's not properly managed.
Based on the contract and the attachments, Ada's firm was to get an advance payment of $78,418 upon completion of all contract signatures.
The firm will then get paid $15,260 every month starting on Nov. 15, 2010, until April 15, 2012. Upon contract completion, the company will get $39,240. Ada obtained a business license days after he was awarded the ARRA management contract.
The impeachment proceedings are being carried live over Channel 60. Concerned citizen Glen Hunter is also posting videos of the impeachment proceedings on Facebook.