Gov. Eloy S. Inos said Friday that the privatization of the Division of Parks and Recreation, whose tasks include maintaining tourist sites, would be done in phases and could start in fiscal year 2014 instead of doing it all at once in 2015.
At the same time, the governor said that turning over the operation of the Oleai Sports Complex from the Division of Sports and Recreation to the Northern Marianas Amateur Sports Association is facing some hiccups, mainly because of NMASA’s concerns.
Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Arnold Palacios, in a separate interview, said Parks and Recreation privatization could start with smaller areas, while major tourist sites such as the ones in Marpi may be the last one to be turned over to the care of the private sector.
The Division of Parks and Recreation is under DLNR, while the Division of Sports and Recreation is under the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs.
“Fiscal and human resource challenges considered in deciding to postpone the full privatization and maybe do it in stages, but a request for proposals is ready to go if a decision were to be made to do it all at once. We could have pulled it off but it would be with challenges,” Palacios told Saipan Tribune.
The governor said that Parks and Recreation privatization could occur in phases, some of which could occur within fiscal year 2014 instead of postponing the whole plan until 2015.
“I believe that we have essentially agreed that we will continue the current operation on…certain sections of the island, primarily the tourist related sites that Parks and Rec maintains, then privatize the other sites. We’re exploring that. An RFP should be coming out to take care of that,” Inos said.
The governor also had a meeting with stakeholders on the planned privatization of the Division of Sports and Recreation, and this, too, is facing some challenges.
“There seems to be some apprehension about it moving forward but we have provided for a mechanism in the budget that if it didn’t go through, that we just move the funding from non-personnel to personnel. We had that thing planned. The Sports and Recreation move doesn’t take the kind of complication that privatization of Parks and Rec would take,” Inos said in an interview at the unveiling of “welcome” signs in San Roque and Tanapag on Friday.
He said the Division of Sports and Recreation has “three or four employees” only compared to the Division of Parks and Recreation with over 20 employees, some of whom are civil service employees.
Moreover, Inos said NMASA “is pretty much a quasi-government entity. We can transfer employees over there and then from that point they can decide how they’re going to deal with the government employees. I think they can handle that.”
The governor said that NMASA’s concerns include not having the funds that they expect to have if they were to run the sports division and amendment to its enabling legislation.
Inos said NMASA also wants “to be able to raise revenues on their own through donation.” He said NMASA is seeking to become a tax-exempt organization.
Timing is also a concern, with the Oct. 1 start of fiscal year 2014 just around the corner.
Besides privatization of some government programs and services, the administration has also started merging agencies and programs with overlapping functions to cut costs and increase government efficiency.