Commonwealth Utilities Corp. is faced with another challenge after its chief financial officer, Charles Warren, turned in his resignation letter last Friday.
After four years on the post, Warren is expected to officially vacate the position in July this year.
Warren was hired as the utilities agency’s CFO in February 2010. This is a position mandated by federal stipulated orders.
On Friday, Warren told Saipan Tribune he is planning to return American Samoa with his family.
“I will be moving back to American Samoa. There, I will be working for Samoa Tuna Processors (a division of Tri Marine Group LLC). STP is re-opening the former Chicken of the Sea tuna processing facility in American Samoa, and I will be involved in helping to establish accounting systems and controls. I expect to very busy, since the facility will be growing from a few dozen employees now to over 1,000 employees by year’s end,” he said.
Warren said his time at CUC went by very quickly. He said he has been very fortunate to have worked with an extremely dedicated and hardworking staff and management team. Although very challenging, Warren said this has been one of the most, if not the most, professionally rewarding jobs in his long career.
“Dealing with the day-to-day financial and operational complexities of a utility business, coupled with the demands of the federal court and [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] in complying with the stipulated orders, while at the same time responding to the numerous and sometimes conflicting requirements of the CPUC and the Legislature make for a very stimulating work environment,” he said.
Warren credits his great team for accomplishing major undertakings in the four years he’s been with CUC.
It was during Warren’s tenure that CUC achieved unqualified audits for the first time in CUC history. The agency, at the same time, was able to address and eliminate most of the Circular A-133 audit findings. “Unqualified opinion” is an auditor’s opinion of a financial statement, given without any reservations. Such an opinion basically states that the auditor feels the company followed all accounting rules appropriately and that the financial reports are an accurate representation of the company’s financial condition.
Also of particular note, CUC has just completed issuing $527,000 in refunds to nearly 2,100 customers and clear the backlog of thousands of billing disputes.
Within four years, Warren said that CUC was able to implement a new customer information and billing system, offer online bill payment, offer bill payment by phone, install a new accounting and financial management system, improve accounting staff quality and training including getting two of CUC’s senior accountants qualified as CPAs, and expand the customer service staffing to include dedicated personnel for dispute resolution.
CUC also created a website, populated with information of interest to customers including rates, regulatory matters, service interruptions and outages.
The agency was able to obtain over $67 million in grant funding, which continues to be expended on a timely basis and with no reporting or expenditure issues. The agency also managed to keep the lights on and water flowing despite the fiscal challenges presented by over $22 million in government arrears.
For Warren, none of this could have been accomplished without the extremely hard work and dedication of all of employees at CUC.
“I was just one cog in a very large wheel,” he told Saipan Tribune Friday.
Warren said he and his family will miss Saipan a lot. “We have enjoyed living here, and have found the schools and extracurricular activities for our daughter to be outstanding. Our daughter will be in the 12-and-under group representing Saipan at the International Tennis Federation North Pacific Qualifier in Guam next month. Such opportunities are not readily available in American Samoa,” he said.
CUC chief executive officer Alan Fletcher disclosed Friday that Warren’s resignation explained that it was a difficult decision to leave.
“CUC has seen significant improvements in its accounting and financial management in the past four years as a result of Mr. Warren’s work and oversight of the financial affairs of CUC. During his four-year tenure at CUC, the utility company received its first ever unqualified audits. Through Warren’s guidance, CUC’s financial well-being and regulatory compliance were put on a positive track toward becoming a strong utility company,” according to Fletcher.
CUC board chair David J. Sablan noted that Warren’s concise financial reports have assisted the board significantly in its decisions addressing financial weaknesses in CUC’s administration and operations.
Sablan added that Warren will be missed, but extends him their best wishes for his success as he pursues new challenges in his career.