A bill that would give the Northern Marianas Housing Corp. the power to skip the procurement processes of the Department of Finance when applying for federal grants passed House of Representatives last week.
By allowing it to skip Finance’s procurement process, it is hope that NMHC, an autonomous agency under the CNMI government that is funded solely by federal grants, will have a faster grant applications process, skipping Finance’s vast processes that government agencies go through.
“Due to the excessive burden that the Department of Finance is faced with in dealing with other government agencies, timeliness is a serious concern that NMHC is faced with,” states the House Committee on Judiciary and Government Operations. “If NMHC’s projects are not completed in a timely manner as set under [federal] guidelines, NMHC’s grant funding may be jeopardized.”
Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan), who authored House Bill 20-153, chairs the committee.
H.B. 20-153, which passed the House on a vote of 18-0, authorizes NMHC, along with the Commonwealth Development Authority, to promulgate their own regulations on procurement, travel, and personnel matters, instead of having to go through Finance.
In a March 19, 2018, letter, Finance Secretary Larissa Larson expressed support for the bill, saying it “corrects an issue that was overlooked and allows for the autonomy that was intended” in creating NMHC.
“Under the current interpretation of the law, DOF has had to delegate authorities to NMHC to allow them to operate in an autonomous form. H.B. 20-153 addresses that concern by allowing NMHC to determine and promulgate its own regulations for personnel, procurement, and travel as should be the case in an autonomous agency,” Larson wrote to Blanco.
The bill now heads to the Senate for action.