Initiative filed to make CNMI public auditor an elected position
Rep. Corina L. Magofna (Ind-Saipan) has introduced an initiative that would make the CNMI’s public auditor an elective position.
Magofna’s House Legislative Initiative 22-2 proposes to amend Article 3, Section 12 of the CNMI Constitution in order to remove the governor’s authority to appoint a public auditor.
The initiative proposes that the public auditor shall be elected by the voters in a mid-term election and shall serve a term of four years.
Magofna stated in the initiative that the Office of the Public Auditor is charged with the task of proactively preventing the squandering of public funds.
Magofna said OPA should be free of political influence or interference. She said the present system allows the governor appointing discretion of the public auditor and further requiring such a candidate to acquire the successful advice and consent of the Senate and House of Representatives.
“Such established practice may create a compromising environment in which individuals with weak mental faculty inevitably succumb to pressures from undue political influence,” the lawmaker said.
This, she added, eventually leads to potential suppression of findings, subsequent delays in the proper prosecution in cases of theft, covering up infractions made by political cronies, or purposely circumventing established procurement policies, among other things.
H.L.I. 22-2 prohibits anyone from serving more than two consecutive terms as public auditor. The public auditor shall receive a salary of $100,000 per year.
Under the initiative, no candidate for the position of public auditor shall declare a political party affiliation. No candidate for the position shall seek the endorsement or receive directly or indirectly financial or material support from a political party.
If no candidate receives more than half of the total votes cast for public auditor, on the 14th day after the Board of Election’s certification of election results, a runoff election shall be conducted among the candidates that received the highest and second highest number of votes.
The initiative proposes, among other things, that the public auditor shall be at least 35 years old, and must either be a certified public accountant, or an attorney licensed to practice in the CNMI, or have at least five years of experience in the establishment and enactment of government budgets.
The Office of the Public Auditor shall receive an annual budget equaling at a minimum .01% of the budget of the CNMI government.
Kina B. Peter, the first female public auditor of the CNMI, has resigned to pursue another job opportunity. Her resignation will be effective on July 8, 2022. She was sworn in for the six-year term as public auditor only 15 months ago.