CUC: CHCC’s unpaid $26M is escalating

The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp’s unpaid utility bill has already reached $26 million as of last Nov. 30 and the amount just keeps escalating, according to acting Commonwealth Utilities Corp. chief financial officer Corina Magofna and CUC lawyer James Sirok.

At a recent CUC board meeting, Magofna said that CHCC pays CUC a minimum of $5,000 or less per month; it is supposed to pay CUC $400,000 a month.

Under CUC’s memorandum of understanding with CHCC, the utility agency is supposed to recover $400,000 a month from CHCC, Sirok said, but since the hospital is underfunded, CUC has agreed to collect only $300,000 a month.

Yet CHCC is not complying with that payment arrangement, Sirok added.

CUC did meet with CHCC officials several months ago, Sirok said, and they were supposed to come up with a new agreement that would be realistic to CHCC’s plans and revenue.

Sirok told the CUC board that they can talk further about CHCC’s outstanding bills during an executive session.

As for CUC’s MOU with the central government, Sirok said his last knowledge of the issue told him that the government was on track with payments.

Magofna said that, as of last Nov. 30, the central government owes $4,897,000.

CUC executive director Gary P. Camacho said the CNMI government is assisting CUC with the restoration efforts after Super Typhoon Yutu’s devastation.

Camacho said the CNMI government has provided millions of dollars in funding to CUC and other agencies for the restoration and recovery.

Sirok said he is highlighting the central government’s assistance because the CUC board may have read articles in the newspapers that are always citing the government as the “culprit” or owes so much money to CUC.

In reality, Sirok said, the government is moving along and is working well with CUC in trying to establish what they owe and pay CUC.

Sirok said the $4.8 million that the government currently owes is substantially less what the central government previously owed CUC.

“It’s really the hospital and this $26 million keeps escalating,” said the lawyer, adding that this is hurting CUC.

“That’s why I’m saying, to use a medical term, that we’re hemorrhaging, because of this issue,” he said.

Sirok underscored the need for CUC to finalize an MOU with CHCC as well as with the Commonwealth Ports Authority, which also owes CUC, to get back on track.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com
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