Sen. Vinnie F. Sablan (Ind-Saipan) has introduced legislation that would establish the Office of Management and Budget within the Department of Finance. OMB, currently, is under the Office of the Governor with Virginia Villagomez as special assistant.
Senate Bill 21-33 would repeal Sections 101 and 201(d) of Executive Order 94-3, which established OMB under the executive branch. The legislation finds that there has been conflict or discrepancies between OMB and Finance Department when it comes to the government’s annual operating budget and other matters about the CNMI’s finances.
The bill, if it passes the House without amendments and signed by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, would remove OMB from the Governor’s Office and would establish the Division of Management and Budget under the Finance Department with a director as its head.
The director will supervise the daily operations and will be responsible for all matters in managing the budget, but will be directly under the Finance secretary.
Finance currently has seven divisions, namely: Revenue and Taxation, CNMI Treasury, Finance and Accounting, Customs Service, Procurement and Supply, Electronic Data Processing, and the CNMI Passport Office.
Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, when he was the Senate president in the 20th Legislature, introduced another legislation—S.B. 20-1—that aims to create Revenue and Taxation as a separate department under the Executive branch.
S.B. 20-1 remained under review with the House Judicial and Governmental Operations Committee, after House legal counsel John Cool advised the members that creating another department is not possible since it would exceed the number as stated in the CNMI Constitution.
Finance is one of the 10 departments under the Executive branch including Commerce, Community and Cultural Affairs, Labor, Lands and Natural Resources, Public Lands, Public Works, Public Safety, Corrections, and Fire and Emergency Management Services.
Sablan said having OMB as a division under Finance is a way to re-structure the government’s financial procedures. “In different economic states or positions, jurisdictions may see the need to re-structure the finance and budgeting systems and procedures.”
“In light of our current financial position, we see the need to streamline the process to become more efficient in the future actions of the legislature especially during the annual budget process.”
He added, “This bill does not eliminate the OMB, it simply streamlines the operations under the direction of the Secretary of Finance opposed to having dual structure. The primary intent of SB 21-33 aims to provide more consistency in the forecasting and management of public funds.”