The House Special Committee on Fiscal Review of Executive Expenditures went over the ground rules on how it will go about its review of the Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ expenditures at its first organizational meeting in the House of Representatives chamber yesterday.
Special committee chair Rep. Ralph Yumul (R-Saipan) acknowledged the bipartisan nature of the committee, saying they may have different political affiliation but with a shared love for families, the community, and for serving the people of the CNMI.
The House legal counsel was instructed to draft subpoenas for several agencies, including the Department of Finance and Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC so it could be asked about the community benefit fund. Also included in the subpoenas are the Marianas Visitors Authority, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Department of Public Safety, the Northern Islands Mayor’s office, and any other agency that sent personnel and equipment to a trip that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres took to the Northern Islands to promote the region.
Committee members also cited a need for documents from the Department of Finance that are still pending, with House vice speaker Rep. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) raising concerns on those that have redacted information.
“I want the committee, and also, our legal counsel to seek out in regards to redacting information from documents that we subpoenaed. We want to make sure what information can be redacted. There are some excuses, social security is confidential information, I understand…but other information can be very suspicious,” he said.
Some of the redacted information on the documents the legislators now have are of at least 17 credit card numbers, redacted up to the last four digits, that were used in various expenditures that were allegedly subsequently billed to taxpayers.
There was also talk about the need for two alternate members, also bipartisan, should any of the committee’s eight members are not available.
“We should not leave any stone unturned,” Rep. Luis John Castro (R-Saipan) said. “I know it’s going to be a challenge but…it is important that we do what we’re gathered here to do, on the documents that need to be reviewed, the actions that need to be taken, because the issues have affected our constituents.”
Last week, House Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao (R-Saipan) established the bipartisan committee to carry out the investigation that was originally started by the House Ways and Means Committee, which is busy right now with the fiscal year 2021 budget.
“I have full confidence that we will be able to work together, to be fair, to be transparent throughout our investigation,” said minority leader Rep. Edwin K. Propst (D-Saipan).