Kilili ‘politicizing’ CIP money issue, says admin

The Fitial administration harshly criticized Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) yesterday for “politicizing” the issue of unspent capital improvement project funding.

Fitial, in a statement yesterday, said the administration and the CIP Office are “working vigorously to maximize the use of available capital improvement funds.”

“Unfortunately, this is an election year and some re-electionists will make every attempt to politicize the work of many hardworking government employees. And while some elected leaders constantly degrade the good work of public servants based on false information, I encourage all government employees to continue the hard work you do everyday for the benefit of the entire Commonwealth,” Fitial said.

Sablan earlier told Saipan Tribune that the CNMI has $54 million in projected unspent CIP money by the end of September and some $11 million in unspent Federal Highway Administration funds that could have been circulating in the local economy and creating more badly needed jobs.

The administration said every single capital improvement project “is either undergoing environmental review, design, construction, or is being de-obligated and redirected to new priorities.”

It said there are more CIPs underway “than at any time in the history of the Commonwealth.”

The administration said this includes reconstruction of a Rota gymnasium, purchase of medical equipment for Tinian, repairs to the Tinian Harbor, renovation of classrooms at Northern Marianas College, and repair of government buildings.

“Due to the costs of some projects such as the Tinian landfill, the Rota landfill, and the Puerto Rico dump closure project, large amounts of funds must be retained for the final stage of construction, which are in excess of $5 million to $10 million each. Thus, these funds may seem like they are sitting idle, but they are merely for the design and permitting stages to be completed, so construction can be implemented,” the administration said.

CIP grant money provides funding to a lot of infrastructure needs in the CNMI, including critical needs such as in the areas of education, power, water, wastewater and solid waste programs and services.

The CNMI’s slow spending of CIP money has been believed to be a major factor in the CNMI’s receipt of a steadily declining amount of CIP funding for years.

In fiscal year 2005, the CNMI’s CIP funding was $12.5 million. Five years later or in fiscal year 2010, it was $11 million, before going down to $10 million in fiscal year 2011 and $9.5 million in fiscal year 2012.

For fiscal year 2013, the proposed CIP money for the CNMI is only $8.7 million.

Sablan said moving and spending $65 million in CIP and Federal Highway funds would generate “immediate” additional revenues circulating in the economy compared to pushing for legalizing casino gaming on Saipan.

Sablan said he is not opposed to Saipan casino gambling if it’s properly planned and envisioned. He hopes that somebody will step up to the plate and ensure that should casinos are legalized on Saipan, each casino license holder should be required to bring in an additional 200,000 tourists-inclusive of the gamblers and their families and friends-every year as a condition of renewing their annual license the following year, along with ensuring they pay their taxes, they pay their workers and abide by all other laws and rules.

Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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