Atalig: People are sensationalizing healthcare during election year
Not $34.2 million, but only close to $10 million.
That’s according to Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig last Friday, who denied that the CNMI government owes the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. $34.2 million; the number is much closer to $10 million, based on their preliminary review, he said. Atalig blames the current political season for the inflated numbers.
Atalig disclosed during a radio press briefing that they are still finalizing their report and will come up with a detailed report early next week on what the Commonwealth owes CHCC.
“This is election year and people are sensationalizing the healthcare and not coming and asking my office for accurate data,” he said.
Last Aug. 2, CHCC chief executive officer Esther L. Muña wrote Atalig, saying that CHCC is owed $34.2 million to date, and that Finance has yet to transfer to the corporation several local appropriations, as well as allocations from the American Rescue Plan Act funding.
Muña cited several public and Saipan local laws, including those from 2018, which she said appropriated a total of $55,835,688 to CHCC.
She said Finance has so far transferred $20,981,433 and an adjustment in the amount of $646,163, leaving $34,208,092 in total balance owed CHCC.
Muña said that soon after their fiscal year 2022 budget hearing in the House of Representatives, some lawmakers emphasized with her that CHCC needs to make a written request to Atalig’s office requesting for and following up on funding appropriated to CHCC by CNMI public laws. That prompted Muña to write Atalig, which itemized the appropriations that have a balance to date.
Atalig said Friday that he met last Monday with the CHCC board chairman and with Muña, during which they discussed Muna’s letter. Atalig said he told Muña that his office is reviewing her spreadsheet and identifying if it’s accurate.
“Preliminarily, I’ll just say it out front, there is no $34 million owed CHCC,” he said.
The Finance secretary said there are items on Muña’s list that do not reflect the amount of monies that have already been transferred to CHCC.
Keep in mind that the government was paying for CHCC’s utilities a couple of years ago and even last year, he said.
“We continue to pay our share and help them with their CUC utility bill as well as looking into some of the things that they didn’t identify as being transmitted to them,” Atalig said.
He said that $34 million is down to only close to about $10 million.