Finance owes only $9.8M to CHCC and not $34.2M


Department of Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig disclosed Friday that their final numbers show that they owe Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. $9.8 million and not $34.2 million as CHCC has claimed. 

In response to Saipan Tribune’s questions during a KKMP press briefing, Atalig said some lawmakers are politicizing health care matters and no one talks about the good things that the administration has been doing to help CHCC.

“Who’s paying CHCC’s [Commonwealth Utilities Corp.] billings? It’s the central government,” he said.

Last Aug. 2, CHCC chief executive officer Esther L. Muña wrote to Atalig, claiming 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 (ARPA) funding.

Muña said that soon after CHCC’s fiscal year 2022 budget hearing, 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 a letter to Atalig, in which she itemized the appropriations that have a balance to date. 

Atalig said Friday that he submitted a letter to Muña, sharing with her that their review of CHCC’s spreadsheet and Finance numbers are very different. 

He said their numbers are showing that they owe $9.8 million and that they are still working on to make sure that CHCC will get that amount.

The Finance secretary said the $9.8 million includes a lot of payments for medical referral. 

“Keep in mind when we allocated medical referral monies  from ARPA  it was also not just directly to give 100% to CHCC. It was also  paid for past billings of medical referral,” he said.

Atalig said the central government still needs to pay for those medical bills or medical expenses from the medical referral program. 

He said there are misunderstandings, but some lawmakers have politicized the issue. 

 “We don’t need to politicize this. I work closely with CHCC to make sure that we work together in all aspects,” Atalig said.

The secretary said no one’s talking about the assistance that the CNMI government and the Office of the Governor are giving CHCC.

He said some lawmakers are all concerned about this spreadsheet and those figures, but they’re not aware that the administration spent close to $30 million in helping CHCC throughout this COVID-19 pandemic.

Atalig noted that they put a  new parking lot for CHCC, took care of a lot of their personal protective equipment (PPEs), nurses, and traveling nurses, and that all those payments are COVID-19 expenses.

He said on top of it, his office is completely upgrading CHCC’s  financial system with Munis, and that Finance is not charging a penny to CHCC.

“No one wants to discuss how much we paid CHCC for their CUC bills,” the secretary also stated. 

Atalig said he had been at meetings trying to get CHCC and CUC boards together and resolve CHCC’s outstanding utility bills. 

“ But all we’re concerned about is this political season using the healthcare system. And what we’ve promised  to allocate, those cannot change.  We’re working on that. We’re still going to continue to work on it,” he added.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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