“The CNMI government has the biggest IOU” when it comes to money owed the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., according to Rep. Joseph “Lee Pan” Guerrero (Rep-Saipan) during a meeting Wednesday with CUC executive director Gary P. Camacho and other members of the House Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications Committee.
Responding to Guerrero’s inquiry, Camacho said that, off the top of his head, the central government owes CUC approximately $10 million. Add that to the Commonwealth Health Care Corp.’s debt of $33 million to $34 million and you have the CNMI government itself as CUC’s biggest debtor, yet CUC does not treat the CNMI government similar to other consumers, which Guerrero believes “is not right, nor fair.”
The lawmaker, who is a member of the PUTC committee, said he does not see the logic behind the fact that the government owes CUC a huge amount but continues to be treated with kid gloves.
“That’s why I am very disappointed [with] this government,” said Guerrero, adding that CUC is trying its best to put everybody on the power grid, but the government does not appear to be doing its share by paying off the huge amount of money it owes.
“The government should be treated the same way how other consumers are being treated. That is something that we need to consider. That we’ve got to force the government to pay its obligations,” he said.
In his report to the committee, Camacho said that CUC records a loss on a month to month basis because of its poor collections. “Our collection is the biggest issue right now,” Camacho added.
The executive director said that, based on that debt from the central government and CHCC, if CUC has that $50 million, it would have the means to address several matters that have been deferred. That presumably includes the scheduled maintenance work on CUC’s power engines, which are always being deferred.
PUTC chair Rep. Marco T. Peter (R-Saipan) said he called for a meeting with Camacho as the committee wants to look at the current status of CUC’s power, water, and wastewater programs.
Peter said Camacho gave them an overview of the status of what’s going on with the power plants and certain areas within CUC.
The lawmaker said the information provided by Camacho will able to guide them as a committee in coming up with questions that they need to raise before their next meeting.