I have been conducting business in the CNMI for over 25 years but am now struggling to survive due to illegal, unfair, and unethical business practices of “rubber stampers,” their CW solicitors, and unethical architects and engineers who use these individuals.
Rubber stamping occurs when an unqualified or unlicensed individual approves plans that are not in their area of expertise, for example, an architect or a civil engineer who stamps their approval of electrical designs or having an off-island electrical Professional Engineer certify the plan. This approval should only be done by a CNMI licensed electrical Professional Engineer. The off-island rubber stampers practice without a CNMI business license and do not pay BGRT or income taxes to the CNMI.
In spite of my numerous complaints to the Board of Professional Licensing, whose mandate is to safeguard the life, health, property, and welfare of the public by monitoring the practices of certain professional occupations, promote professional conduct, enforce laws and regulations, and provide information so that the public can make informed decisions, they have yet to address the illegal conduct of businesses that routinely use the services of off-island rubber stampers or certify plans that they are not qualified to certify. The BOPL appears to help the violators by not requiring them to comply with existing laws, rules, and regulations.
However, the board will not allow my company to obtain a business license unless I obtain a tax clearance. Of course, this does not apply if you don’t have a CNMI business license. What’s wrong with this picture? This is not a level playing field as these violators are not required to obtain a business license or tax clearances, or renew their professional license as I am required to do for my company that has been legally conducting business in the CNMI.
My letters of complaint has gone unanswered by the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Public Works, Department of Commerce, and elected officials. Until these issues are resolved by the government, legitimate businesses will be unfairly penalized and disadvantaged by requirements that apparently do not apply to illegal practitioners. Again, what is wrong with this picture? Should I consider closing my business and starting a new company that will enjoy the preferential treatment afforded illegal business practitioners? I recommend that the BOPL and government officials correct this problem by enforcing existing laws or the answer to my question, “Is the CNMI government business friendly?” will have to be, “Yes, if your business is “connected.”
Jose Tenorio Santos Servino, PE
President, Advanced Engineering Consulting Co.
San Jose, Saipan