Fund board gives administrator the authority to hire

Members of the NMI Retirement Fund board of trustees on Thursday gave Richard Villagomez the authority to hire an independent external auditor in anticipation of the board’s inability to meet and decide in the next few weeks or months due to a lack of quorum.

The board has only three members after the terms of board chair Sixto K. Igisomar and vice chair Adelina Roberto ended yesterday. Although the two were re-appointed by Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, the Senate has yet to confirm them.

The board needs at least four members to make up a quorum. Only three remain onboard: Bernardita Palacios, Marian Tudela, and Nacrina Barcinas. Two slots are vacant.

Igisomar, who is also the Department of Commerce secretary, said he has no idea as to when his possible confirmation will happen.

So as not to jeopardize the process of completing the agency’s independent audit, the board authorized Villagomez, the Fund’s administrator, to go ahead and hire an independent auditor-a process that has been delayed due to the passage of the since revoked Beneficiaries Derivative Act.

Despite the lack of a board quorum, Igisomar assured that pensions and benefits will continue to be issued.

More questions

The board also disclosed Thursday that meetings it had with members of the Commonwealth Retirees Association and community members this week yielded more questions than answers, with many of participants blaming either Fund officials or the Legislature for the current fiscal condition of the pension program.

The Kagman Community Center meeting had about 15 retirees in attendance, Villagomez said, while over a hundred took part in the meeting at the Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe Tuesday night. A handful showed up at the meeting on Tinian, he added.

Most of the retirees, he said, raised a common question: “What’s the plan now?”

Villagomez admitted that despite the presentations and discussions with participants, nothing concrete came out of it.

As far as the proposed benefit cuts is concerned, Igisomar pointed out that the board is not authorized to do that because it is constitutionally barred from impairing or diminishing members’ benefits.

It was also learned that retirees were split in their views about the benefit cut and how much they’re willing to sacrifice. Some members, they said, also recommended putting caps on benefit payments until the financial condition of the program improves.

Moneth G. Deposa | Reporter

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