The Department of Finance finally handed over yesterday the financial records of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres that the House minority bloc had been seeking in an Open Government Act request made last year.
Finance Secretary David Atalig said that his office was able to provide most of the documents requested, with very few ones that would require manual reviewing, to follow.
“We were able to pretty much get all the information they requested for. There are some items that we’re still trying to locate information. But I would say about 98% of the data requested or documents requested was submitted to them,” Atalig said in an interview with Saipan Tribune.
Among the records that Finance gave the opposition lawmakers were related to the governor’s official representation, housing allowances, executive security, chauffeuring services, and reimbursements; travel authorizations, vouchers and expenditures; and housing or utilities expenses paid by the Commonwealth government for any government official from October 2014 to present.
Minority bloc member Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) confirmed the turnover of documents, saying, “Finance has handed over the records requested by the House minority, the Ways and Means Committee, and the [Judicial and Government Operations] Committee.”
She said that legislative staff went to the Department of Finance yesterday to pack up the documents in boxes to take them back to the House.
Sablan echoed that there are a few items that the Department of Finance staff are still tracking down.
“These include payroll reports for the executive security detail, and several records related to utilities. Finance staff are also still manually reviewing travel records to identify any other first-class travel that may have been paid for by the Commonwealth,” she said.
According to Atalig, the Department of Finance has to manually review some requests for information on the government-paid travel of those who accompanied Torres on his trips.
“We just want to make sure that we cover and locate everything and everything we can find,” Atalig said.
“We’re still researching that for them. Once we gather…them in the next 10 days, we’ll submit that. But I think they have a lot of documents to work on and this will not hinder their current work,” he added.
Prior to the legislative staff picking up the documents, Sablan, with minority leader Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan), visited the Finance secretary’s office to visually inspect the records, where they had a chance to talk with Atalig as well.
Sablan adds that House Ways and Means chair Rep. Ivan Blanco (R-Saipan) is coordinating a meeting today with her and JGO vice chair Rep. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan), to do an inventory of the records received, and to compare what they have against what they asked for.
“The documents need to be sorted and scanned and copies provided to the members and professional staff to begin review. I expect that we will also be reaching out to [the Office of the Public Auditor] for assistance,” Sablan added.
Aside from submitting documents to the House of Representatives, the Department of Finance also provided documents to OPA.