Gov. Benigno R. Fitial lashed out at the Legislature for allowing a one quarter or three months advancement of funds allocated to individual lawmakers' offices for expenditures for fiscal year 2013 instead of only one month advance. At least one lawmaker said yesterday this will give lawmakers “flexibility” in running their office operations.
“It is unfathomable that a body responsible for appropriating funds for the CNMI government believes advances, even for a quarter, much less a month, is easily done especially during these trying economic times,” Fitial said in his budget message to House Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan) and Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota).
The $114-million budget for fiscal year 2013 gave each of the 29 lawmakers $76,605 in operations funding. This is where lawmakers get the money to pay for their staffers and buy office supplies and equipment.
The original House version of the 2013 budget allowed for only a one-month advance. The Senate version, however, replaced it with up to one-quarter advancement.
The budget conference committee went with the Senate version.
“In the event that quarterly allotments are necessary, the request will need to be submitted in writing with supporting documents and in advance to allow for the secretary of Finance to determine if funds are available for the amount needed,” Fitial said.
Only one lawmaker agreed to give a statement but on condition of anonymity.
The lawmaker said that giving lawmakers one-quarter advancement gives them flexibility in running their offices.
Given that the annual operations funding is $76,605, this translates to $6,383 a month. If, for example, a lawmaker spends $6,000 on personnel payroll and the rest goes to buying supplies, then $383 won't be enough to buy computers but if they are allowed a one-quarter advance allotment, then they would be able to put in $500, for example, to buy computers and at the same time budget for personnel salaries.
Under Section 703 (c)(2) of the 2013 budget law or Public Law 17-85, funds allocated for the operation of lawmakers' individual office, including personnel costs and other allowed spending, “may be expended to defray travel and incidental expenses for the purpose of attending to legislative business outside the member's senatorial district; provided that a member may receive a one quarter advancement of funds allocated to his or her office for expenditures.”
Mostly lawmakers from Rota and Tinian avail of advance allotments because of the need to travel to Saipan to attend to legislative business.