The administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is still deliberating action on a bill to provide Torres’ grant’s office with oversight over all government grants, as it hears concerns from various agencies and has also received a proposed “redrafted” form of the bill from one agency concerned with the status of its federal grants, Saipan Tribune learned yesterday.
A lot of the concerns with the bill, House Bill 19-90, appear to center on the “oversight” powers that bill would grant to the CNMI Office of Grants and Management.
The Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, for one, said the language of the bill will add another level of decision making for grants with strict timelines. This is problematic and results in even more delays in meeting federal grant deadlines, the bureau said.
“…What does this mean for decision-making expenditure authorities across the board? Disassociating the programs from their funding sources will only create chaos between the agencies and their federal counterparts and may result in unmet mandates,” said BECQ administrator Frank Rabauliman in a letter to the Senate last month.
The BECQ letter provides one example of how the current grant structure is “not serving CNMI interests.” This concerns involves the Office of Insular Affairs-Technical Assistance Program, which BECQ said they were encouraged to pursue last year.
However, according to the letter, BECQ was informed in February 2016 that the grants office had “already submitted a proposal “for BECQ” for a beach nourishment study that would be conducted through the bureau.
This, though, was “non-priority” of the bureau due to the “many ecological concerns about such projects.”
“As a result, the funding in the amount of $250,00 was directed to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to conduct a beach nourishment study as opposes to a local project that would have been carried out by Homeland Security and BECQ,” said Rabauliman. “These funds could have been awarded to the CNMI but instead were given to another U.S. federal agency to conduct the project.”
“…Agencies know what their programs needs and capabilities are, and these factors should inform grant requests,” Rabauliman adds.
In the letter, Rabauliman says they support the “state clearinghouse” or consolidating grants under the “central point” of the grants office but does not support that the office oversee program grants.