House committee starts review of OT and COVID-19 contracts

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Posted on Jun 24 2020

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The House of Representatives’ Special Committee on Federal Assistance and Disaster Related Funding began yesterday its review of the documents related to awarded contracts, newly-hired employees, and government overtime payments related to the CNMI’s COVID-19 emergency and response.

The lawmakers divided among themselves their assignments in reviewing the documents: House floor leader Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) initially looked into the Category B forms listing personnel and jobs under the operations; Rep. Tina Sablan (D-Saipan) into documents on the Cabinet members’ overtime and extra pay, along with the payouts; Rep. Joseph Lee Pan Guerrero (R-Saipan) into the listing of the check registers; and Rep. Luis John Castro (R-Saipan) into the contracts.

Sablan said her initial review of the documents show that the earlier statements of administration officials about the overtime payments “were misrepresentations of facts.”

“We need to do a little more digging and really get to the bottom of how much has been paid out and, and where we go from there…,” Sablan said in an interview after their initial review.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said in early June that he has signed all of the Cabinet members’ request for overtime, following a leaked document showing a request and authorization for 41 hours of overtime work for Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert A. Guerrero. At that time, the governor also mentioned that no payment has been paid yet.

The floor leader also stressed the importance of reviewing each and every contract, where Guerrero raised that attachments should be provided, as mentioned on the purchase requisition documents.

Looking into one of the requests, Guerrero asked, “They just put down ‘personal services.’ Be more specific, what is the personal service that was done? If we are talking $1.4 million, I want to know.”

Guerrero also wanted to dig into the money spent on preparing the former Mariana Resort & Spa, as a secondary quarantine facility, and its current status.

“What’s the purpose of prepping and if it’s not going to be maximized? We need to know all the costs associated to get the Mariana Resort to the standards that the COVID-19 Task Force would recommend that it’s a go for the resort to be utilized,” he added.

The special committee has yet to receive more documents, including the official check registry from the Department of Finance, as well as additional payroll information, which the committee members intend to use to cross check additional salaries.

The legislators will be meeting again on July 1, Wednesday, to further discuss their reviews. Among those they intend to hear from are the governor’s authorized representative, the Department of Finance, the Office of Budget and Management, the Department of Public Lands, and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.

Iva Maurin | Author
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com

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