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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

OPM: No money, no random drug tests
DPW transfers $700 to OPM for random drug testing

Except for the Department of Public Works, which has just transferred $700 to the Office of Personnel Management to enforce random drug testing among its staff, no other CNMI government agency is expected to have its personnel undergo such test—at least in the near future.

In fact, OPM director Isidro Seman confirmed that in the past year or so, no government agency—including those in law enforcement—had undergone random drug testing because of lack of funds to do so.

“Money is always an issue… For fiscal year 2014, we asked for a substantial amount for random drug test but we had to sacrifice that because of limited funding. And if there’s any money going to drug testing, it should be in our account where it’s been in the past,” Seman told Saipan Tribune in an interview on Friday afternoon.

The Legislature has also not set aside funding so that OPM can administer random drug testing.

A drug test costs some $30 per person on Saipan.

For OPM to ensure random drug testing among agencies, the agency needs at least $14,000 to $15,000 a year, Seman said.

“This is just a rough estimate,” he added.

OPM, in consultation with agencies or departments, gets to pick the personnel to be randomly tested and when. It is the agency that oversees the government’s drug testing program.

A House bill now pending at the Senate would require mandatory drug testing among law enforcement agencies such as the Department of Public Safety and the Division of Customs Services, although funding that could still be a hindrance.

DPW Secretary Martin Sablan separately confirmed yesterday that DPW has identified $700 that could be used for random drug testing so it has been working with OPM.

“That’s because we haven’t done any random drug testing in a long time. So when we identified $700 in available funds, we thought we can again have random drug testing,” Sablan said.

Seman confirmed DPW provided OPM funding so that the department’s personnel can be randomly tested for drugs.

“It is also important that safety-sensitive employee positions are tested,” Seman added.

He was referring to those personnel operating heavy equipment and those operating school buses.

DPS Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero and Customs Services Division director Joe Mafnas earlier told senators none of their personnel underwent random drug testing at least in the last year.

OPM’s Seman confirmed this on Friday, pointing to the lack of government funding to pay the private clinics that administer the actual drug test.

Neither DPS nor Customs asked OPM for random drug testing over the last year.

Customs let go of two employees on its own when it got suspicious of drug-related activities by its employees. Mafnas said one of them admitted to drug use. One of the two that was let go was allegedly selling drugs.

DPS police officers, for its part, have figured in drug-related cases and reports. Despite these, no one at the department underwent random drug testing during at least 2013.

Seman echoed the DPS and Customs chiefs’ concerns that due to the nature of police officers and customs officers’ duties and responsibilities, all of them need to undergo mandatory drug testing.

“I’m with the [DPS] commissioner that it should be done 100 percent for law enforcement. I support that bill. I also agree that it should not only apply to law enforcement but also to those safety-sensitive positions or jobs like for those operating heavy equipment and school buses like DPW, [Commonwealth Utilities Corp.], [Public School System] and the mayor’s office,” Seman added.

Independent agencies and government corporations such as CUC get to fund their own drug testing, Seman added.

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