Five years ago, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation Act was signed into law (Public Law 16-51). Aside from the serious financial and budgetary difficulties that the new government corporation has encountered since, CHCC also has a fundamental corporate problem: a board of trustees that is merely advisory in nature and therefore has no policy-making authority. The chief executive officer and top management officials are not answerable to the CHCC board of trustees. Indeed, the CEO is answerable only to the governor, making the CHCC a corporation in name only. Otherwise, it is still a “line-department” in practice.
I simply cannot understand why the Legislature saw fit to pass the CHCC law five years ago with an “advisory” board of trustees that has no teeth or power. Indeed, in view of the inability of the present CEO and board of trustees to work together and to get along, we can only surmise that any “advice” given by the board of trustees to the CEO will be thrown out the window. Is this the way we want public health service to be administered in the Commonwealth? Of course not.
Of all the government corporations in the Commonwealth, CHCC, I believe, is the only one with an advisory board. All the others—CPA, CDA CUC, NMC, to name several—have a board of directors/trustees/regents that is responsible for running their respective government corporations, and to whom the CEO is answerable to. And this is the normal way of running a corporation—with a governing board of directors/trustees.
I wish to add that an underlying problem affecting many CNMI government boards and instrumentalities is not the matter of having a board of directors/trustees to oversee and run the government corporation. This is the problem of having a board of directors whose members are composed of political appointees and who have very little or no idea how to run the corporation they are appointed to. Another problem is having a “rubber stamp” board. This is where a board of directors will not make a decision on behalf of the corporation until the board members first find out what the governor’s position is on a matter to be acted upon by the board. This makes the board indecisive and useless.
It seems to me that when a governor appoints individuals to serve on government boards, he does so because he has trust and confidence in their individual ability and competence. He trusts that his appointees will use their best judgment on matters coming before the corporation and that their decision will benefit the public. If the governor, however, wants his appointees to follow his personal bidding, then he might as well have the corporation become a line department of the government.
It also seems to me that if the Commonwealth is to begin maturing politically, then CNMI government leaders need to begin maturing politically and professionally. They need to start passing laws that will reflect the growth of such maturity; not laws where the governor and not the board makes the final decision on behalf of the government corporation, which is now the case with the present CHCC legislation.
Alexandro ‘The Colonel’ Sablan