Where’s the money?”
This was a question raised by Northern Marianas Technical Institute chair Mario Valentino after finding out that only $13,000 of the $750,000 of the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker funds was transferred into the vocational institution’s bank account.
Speaking at the NMTI special board meeting via Zoom, Valentino questioned why the institute has nothing in its bank account when, in fact, they received the entire $750,000.
It was learned that $13,000 out of $750,000 was spent for NMTI’s payable, which leaves $737,000 unaccounted for.
Also, it was learned that the transition committee that handled the transition of NMTI from a private nonprofit into a government agency didn’t disclose in its transition report how the $750,000 in CNMI-Only Transitional Worker funds that NMTI got was spent.
This is why Valentino is now pushing for an independent audit to be done to track down where the money went.
“Typically, when a company transfers over, there’s a forensic scrub up. …That’s what we wanted this [audit] for, to exonerate people to make sure that it’s there…and if it’s not there, we need to know why,” said Valentino.
Valentino said his attempt to get the records of prior audits have always been brushed off and was told by the people on the NMTI transition committee not to worry about it.
“I kept asking, ‘Where’s the records,’ ‘Where’s all the stuff,’ [and I was told], ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s got nothing to do with you. We’re just transferred everything.’ [But] no, it was a sloppy transfer that’s unacceptable. And here’s where we’re at now,” he said.
Valentino said he did not get the transparency he was looking for from the transition committee when it came to the financial statements.
“Why was it a problem to even include this in the transition report? I waited two months, and I had to submit a report without that information,” he said.
Valentino said the audit report did “miraculously” appear and was later turned in but there is still $737,000 that is unaccounted for.
It was also learned from NMTI trustee Rick Kautz that the $750,000 in CNMI-Only Transitional Worker funds was only for fiscal year 2020, covering the period from Oct. 1, 2019, to September 2020. Since then, no money has been appropriated to NMTI.
Kautz said he is going to reach out to Finance Secretary David Atalig, who chaired the transition finance committee, to get all the information he needs.