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Thursday, April 17, 2014

MPLT chair: Progress in pursuing DPL remittances

The newly elected chairman of the Marianas Public Land Trust, Martin B. Ada, recently informed the Legislature that the agency is seeing some progress in its dealing with the Department of Public Lands.

In fact, he said, the department has promised to remit the fiscal year 2012 land leases due the land trust by end of the year.

“The MPLT trustees are progressing in pursuing DPL to remit funds due to MPLT as mandated by the CNMI Constitution. In May 2013, DPL Secretary Pete A. Tenorio assured the trustees that for [fiscal year] 2012, DPL will remit to MPLT at the end of the year,” said Ada in a letter Wednesday to Rep. Rafael Demapan (Cov-Saipan). It was learned that the lawmaker had inquired with MPLT about the remittance issue.

Besides this promised new remittance from DPL, Ada disclosed that DPL already remitted $307,109 to MPLT last Dec. 31. It was not disclosed, however, which fiscal year this remittance covered.

Ada also bared that the board will wait for the result of DPL’s audit report for 2013 to determine the true financial condition of the public lands agency.

It was learned that a meeting between Gov. Eloy S. Inos and members of the MPLT board—Pedro Deleon Guerrero, Ada, and Melchor Mendiola—took place last month. The focus of discussion centered on DPL’s obligation to remit funds to MPLT.

“At this meeting, Gov. Inos asked MPLT to allow DPL to complete its [fiscal year] 2013 audit, which is expected to be completed in June 2014. All three of us agreed to grant the [g]overnor’s request,” according to Ada.

Ada, who was elected chairman only recently, had appointed vice chair Maria Frica Pangelinan to handle all matters relating to DPL.

“Vice chair Pangelinan will be meeting with DPL in hope of reaching an understanding and/or to avoid unnecessary legal proceedings,” said Ada.

MPLT trustees earlier initially agreed to take legal action against DPL if it continues to withhold remittances to the land trust.

During MPLT’s last meeting, a document bearing the analysis of MPLT consultant Bruce MacMillan on the DPL audit reports for fiscal year 2011 and 2012 was shown to the trustees. Though its content was never discussed in the floor, a copy obtained by Saipan Tribune indicated the potential amount that should have been remitted to the trust. This document is expected to be discussed at the next board meeting.

In MacMillan’s report, he estimates a little over $13 million that is constitutionally due MPLT as of fiscal year 2012. This amount represents many years of distributions to MPLT that were withheld going back to the 1990s.

In a recent interview, Inos refused to comment on the “remittance issue” pending the completion of the 2013 DPL audit and its own data analysis.

“That amount [$13 million] is based on MPLT’s analysis. But what’s the analysis from DPL?” Inos told Saipan Tribune, adding that the pending audit will help determine the right amount due MPLT for public land leases
and related revenues.

Based on MacMillan’s analysis, the amount due MPLT as of Sept. 30, 2012, is $3.441 million plus the $2 million reservation of “fund balance”—for a combined total of $5.441 million.

In addition to this balance, MacMillan said there were monies that have been diverted from the Marianas Public Land Authority and DPL that should have gone to MPLT—expenditures that do not qualify as “expenses of administration.”

He specifically cited $1 million that DPL gave the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. in fiscal year 2005 to buy fuel. In fiscal year 2010, DPL also paid the Department of Finance $2.5 million per a state of emergency. In that same fiscal year, land compensation payments totaled $2.2 million ($262,944 and $1.978 million). From June 2010 to September 2012, there was also a duplicate payment to the NMI Retirement Fund treated as a fully reserved receivable amounting to $1.957 million.

MacMillan indicated that the total potentially due MPLT is $7.699 million on these “expenses of administration.”

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