‘Govt needs policy on typhoon OT’

Posted on May 06 2019

In the wake of criticisms, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios says CNMI government must put in place a policy in authorizing and granting overtime pay in the future after any natural disaster.

This comes soon after House minority leader Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) and Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan), two vocal members of the opposition, accused the Torres administration of not paying for the overtime compensation of all frontline workers that helped in the recovery efforts after Super Typhoon Yutu in October last year.

Overtime pay is typically regular pay multiplied 2.5 times.

Citing a list obtained from the administration, Propst had scored the thousands of dollars in overtime paid Cabinet members, even as hundreds of frontline workers remain unpaid or are still awaiting payment.

Sablan had suggested that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres should not have authorized the overtime pay for Cabinet members who were not eligible to receive OT by law or by their own contracts.

Palacios said that he recently was in talks with the governor about putting in place a very specific policy on this issue.

“We should address it and have a systematic and equitable fair way of disbursing OT pay and authorizing OT pays during and after typhoons or other major disasters,” he said.

Torres said that, as much as possible, his administration wants to pay everyone who worked during and after the typhoon in time, but he’s asking for a little patience as the government tries to find the needed funds to cover those expenses, during this time of economic recovery.

“I want to pay it right away, but how can we do that if our revenues are down? Unlike what we had done in the past to pay in advance, what we’re asking is for those employees to be more patient until we get more revenues to come in,” said Torres.

“Our revenue is down by $30 million, there’s nothing to hide—we saw that after Yutu when there’s no tourists coming in and our government expenditures increased by 10 times more because recovery must happen and employees still got paid.”

He added that the administration is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in coming up with some formula in getting the CNMI government’s reimbursements. “Hopefully we could resolve it in the next couple of weeks.”

Palacios said the administration is trying to resolve all issues in order to get all the workers paid.

Acting Finance secretary David Atalig, during his meeting with the House Ways and Means Committee last Tuesday, said the CNMI government first paid for the 2.5 overtime pay then submitted the documents to FEMA for reimbursement.

He said that some $8.8 million from the general fund were used by the government for the OT payments. “A large batch was obviously pre-printed in terms of checks, to show the expenditure to FEMA.”

“We had some challenges with documentation, routing procedures, as well as the documents that were submitted to FEMA that were either rejected or [FEMA] requesting for more information and documents.” Atalig said this is what they are trying to resolve.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.
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