After years of being kept in the dark in terms of the Commonwealth’s finances, governor-elect Arnold I. Palacios says one of his first acts in office will be to open these books to the public as a gesture of transparency and rebuilding trust in his administration.
In a news briefing last Monday, Palacios disclosed that he was blocked from accessing the CNMI’s financial books even during his tenure as lieutenant governor under the current administration.
However, that ends once he officially assumes the role of governor, he assured, promising that once the transition period begins in January, the Palacios-Apatang administration will prioritize opening the CNMI’s financial books to determine where the CNMI stands financially, and how to address any wrongs that may have been left by the departing administration.
“We and the transition team would request for all records of expenditures dating back three, four years. We will look through all of it because that is part of the CNMI’s healing process. Sometimes you need to air everything out in order to make sure that if there were any wrongdoings, we correct them. We’re not going to do it out of vendetta; it just has to be done. The public deserves that and that is one of our promises from the very beginning; that we will open the books and be very transparent about it. To me, again, that’s part of healing this community,” Palacios said.
Once the books are reviewed and if any wrongdoings are found, those who need be held accountable will be, he said.
“Those that are flagrantly responsible for any of those wrongdoings would have to be held accountable for it. That’s part of good governance. In order for us to right the ship, so to speak, we need to know what is wrong. What happens if the guy that steers the canoe is the one that’s wrong? We have to right that by replacing him with somebody else if that’s what we have to do. It’s not something that I relish doing, but if that’s what we have to do, to right our government, that to me, is simple,” Palacios said.
As for who will be part of the Palacios-Apatang transition team and Cabinet, Palacios said no decisions have been made yet. However, all those qualified, no matter what their political affiliation is, will be considered through a fair and just vetting process.
“We will have an open application process. So you get to submit your credentials to us and we will vet those to make sure that we put the right people, qualified individuals, in the right positions. There are a lot of qualified individuals in our community but sometimes they’re in the wrong positions or wrong line of work. But believe me, now, we will be vetting fairly because we want to be a lot better that the past administration,” he said.