Two House of Representatives committees jointly agreed yesterday afternoon to include the Bank of Guam and several persons in the subpoena to compel them to produce records and testify related to the Torres’ administration’s Building Optimism, Opportunities, and Stability Together Program in a bid to find out, among other things, who have been awarded funds and those who have been denied or are still awaiting disposition.
During the continuation of the joint meeting by the Committee on Ways and Means and Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations, Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan) offered a motion to add BOG to the list of subpoena recipients to obtain documents related to the administration of the BOOST Program and the role that the bank plays in the program.
Sablan also moved to amend the subpoena for the Department of Finance to include copies of all business license applications submitted, including pending applications, as well as copies of business licenses issued for all BOOST applicants from May 2022 to the present.
She also moved to issue subpoena to individuals so they could testify before the committees. These individuals are Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig, Commerce Secretary Edward M. Deleon Guerrero, DOC director of Economic Development Jesus Taisague, chief of staff to the governor William Castro, Bank of Saipan president John Arroyo, BOS employee and BOOST Program administrator Karen Kalen, and BOG vice president/CNMI regional manager Merced “Marcie” Tomokane.
All seven JGO members present voted “yes” to the motions. They were chair Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan), vice speaker Rep. Blas Jonathan T. Attao (Ind-Saipan), and Reps. Sablan, Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota), Edwin K. Propst (D-Saipan), Richard T. Lizama (D-Saipan), and Vicente Camacho (D-Saipan).
All 10 Ways and Means Committee members present voted “yes.” They were chair Manglona, and Reps. Corina L. Magofna (Ind-Saipan), Babauta, Vicente Camacho, Lizama, Propst, Sablan, Joel Camacho (Ind-Saipan), Leila Staffler (D-Saipan), and Denita K. Yangetmai (D-Saipan). Two members were absent.
On Monday, the two committees jointly agreed to issue subpoena to four entities—Department of Finance, Department of Commerce, Office of the Governor, and BOS. The subpoena compels the entities to produce the BOOST Program records, including list of applicants who have been awarded and the amount awarded, and applicants who have been denied or still awaiting disposition.
Manglona said yesterday that the subpoenas will be served as they adjourned that day.
Manglona clarified that these individuals will be served with subpoenas to appear before the committees to testify in order to give the members the opportunity to ask them directly.
He said he will schedule these individuals to testify starting Dec. 16, 2022, and to continue the following week should they need additional days.
Babauta said that some people have been messaging her through her email, WhatsApp, and Messenger about the program and one of those who emailed her gave her a link to the BOOST Program website that continuously rejected his/her BOOST application.
She said another constituent sent a WhatsApp message, saying he had immediately applied when the program was first announced, yet to date he has not received any communication whatsoever about his application.
“So…we’re trying to…understand it better,” Babauta said.
Atalig stated Sunday that he had already written last Friday to Manglona and Babauta to inform them that their request for information about the BOOST Program had already been forwarded to BOS, which is the administering authority for the program.
Torres also stated Sunday that the House committees are welcome to get information and hold hearings on the BOOST Program.