The Department of Public Safety has spent $2.2 million just for overtime costs, an amount that House Ways and Means chair Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) said is way over the allocated budget for overtime.
DPS Commissioner Robert Guerrero said during Monday’s House Ways and Means Committee budget hearing that DPS is spending $2.2 million in overtime—some $2 million more than $200,000 that’s allocated for DPS overtime.
Guerrero said this is largely because DPS is understaffed. Also, investigations into cases cannot be allowed to discontinue, he added.
DPS currently has 131 employees.
Demapan, however, believes that DPS could still trim some hours from their officers’ schedules and bring down the overall cost of overtime.
“That is something of a grave concern for the House of Representatives,” said Demapan, adding that he requested Guerrero to look anew at the department’s staffing patterns. “The staffing pattern has to be built around that—to be able to respond beyond the working hours.”
He pointed out that two fiscal years ago, there was a 45-man increase in officers while the overtime expenditure stayed the same.
“When we appropriate funds to give new positions, it is done on the premise that overtime costs would be reduced because you have more people in the force,” he said.
Demapan hopes that fiscal year 2018 goes differently for DPS because “the moment you go over the $200,000 in overtime budget, the entire government is in deficit.”
DPS received $6 million in fiscal year 2017. This year, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has proposed to allocate $6.6 million to the department.
DPS had proposed a budget of $10.6 million, a proposal that Demapan looks forward to negotiating.
“The commissioner justified that it is only fitting, [due to] the developments and activities going on, as well as the soon-to-open casino hotel,” said Ways and Means vice chair Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan).
Demapan agreed with Sablan that the $4-million variance is too much.
“If we were to give [$4 million], it would require a massive reduction across the board in all departments and agencies. That is something we cannot do,” Sablan said. “We are going to strike a balance on how we distribute the funds for the budget.”
Included in the $4 million difference was DPS’ request to expand their vehicle lineup and their plans to recruit more officers.
“Majority of the $4 million [difference] is DPS asking for 45 more full-time employees [FTE’s],” said Sablan.
Demapan recognized DPS’ need for additional vehicles, something he said the committee considers a “critical component to any police force.”
“That is something that we would definitely consider, should supplemental funding become available,” he said, adding that DPS has proposed $500,000 to purchase vehicles—an amount that is included in the $4 million difference.