Newly appointed Legislative Bureau director Antonio P. Sablan said he would take time evaluating and thoroughly reviewing his department before making any changes.
The bureau took the spotlight early this month after it was found out that most audio recordings of sessions, including more than 10 in the House of Representatives, had yet to be transcribed for official records keeping.
Before the inauguration, Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation chair Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) instructed then acting director Antonette R. Villagomez to see if there’s a need to hire additional personnel or outsource the job.
Sablan was appointed last week and will decide if they are going to hire more people to help with the transcriptions. The LB has eight central staff that report directly to Sablan. An additional eight are assigned to the House and another seven to the Senate while the Youth Congress has one.
“[First], before we decide to address on personnel issues, we have to take time to review what we have. Talk to people and try to get some ideas on the concerns raised by both members of the House and Senate. The journal issue for example, we’re going to look into it,” said Sablan.
“I’m not going to necessarily say that we need to add more people. We need to take time to talk to the staff that does the work and try to get a better picture. Who knows, we might need to add if the evaluation sees fit.”
He added that he would first talk to the staff. “We’re not saying that we need to have more people. We’re going to take the time to evaluate everything and, talk individually to the staff, and go from there.”
Sablan conceded that changes are needed in the bureau and he would start making the necessary modifications starting this week. “There’s going to be some changes. Things that are working out in certain areas, we’re going to continue with it.”
“Personally, I can say that there would be some changes and I think we owe it to the House and Senate members. We’re looking forward to making these changes based on the level of the service and support that we provide to them.”
He is also going to meet with the administration officer and fiscal analyst to review the status of the bureau’s budget. “What was already spent for 2016 and what we have so far in the first quarter of fiscal year 2017. Ask the status of the finances and budget situation. I would require their participation and ask about financial matters.”
“We’re going to continuously monitor our financial situation to make sure that we prepare the necessary budget for the next fiscal year. We would also immediately communicate with [Capital Improvement Project administrator and Office of Management and Budget special assistant] Vicky Villagomez for the back up generator,” said Sablan, who added that having a back up generator is among their top priorities.
He said they are now busy extending whatever service the incoming members need by helping them get settled in, especially the first time legislators. “We want to get the necessary and properly issued equipment to the members. Once we’re done with that, we’re going to start with the reorganization of the bureau.”
“Proper communication and understanding on what our responsibilities are is needed. I’m confident that the bureau would provide improved service to the members and that is our vision,” he added.
Sablan was a long time member of the CNMI Republican Party but ran as an independent a number of times before deciding to return to the local GOP in the last election. He, however, lost his re-election bid.