Of nine senators, only Sen. Edith E. DeLeon Guerrero (D-Saipan) does not lease a vehicle that’s paid for by government funds.
In response to Saipan Tribune’s request, the office of Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) provided Thursday a list showing that eight senators are leasing vehicles with government funds. The Senate’s list does not indicate what type of vehicles, models, and year. Hofschneider’s staff referred Saipan Tribune to the Office of the Public Auditor for more information.
It was Public Auditor Kina B. Peter who requested assistance from Hofschneider last Dec. 1 for information regarding whether senators have purchased or leased a government vehicle paid for by government funds. Peter sent the same request for a list of leased vehicles last Dec. 1 to House of Representatives Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan).
Peter said OPA is doing a survey regarding all CNMI government vehicles.
When asked why she is not leasing a vehicle and is instead using her private car, DeLeon Guerrero said yesterday that her office does very minimal runs outside the office.
DeLeon Guerrero is author of a pending Senate Bill 22-53, which seeks to prohibit the purchase of leased vehicles paid by public funds by elected officials.
The bill, however, allows an exemption for a government agency to purchase the leased vehicles strictly for the agency’s use.
DeLeon Guerrero stated in the bill that the purpose of this legislation is to stop the scheme of converting leased vehicles to personal vehicles at a discounted price as a result of payments made using public funds.
She said a government agency, however, may negotiate to purchase a leased vehicle strictly for the agency’s use.
The senator said many vehicles are being leased by government agencies for its employees’ use during work hours.
She said elected officials also lease vehicles for their transportation in performing their duties as elected officials and for their office use.
She said the lease period of vehicles is usually annually and renewable each year thereafter. DeLeon Guerrero said after years of the use of the leased vehicle and payment of the monthly rental amounts, the vehicle lessee negotiates with the lessor for a discounted price and the lessee is given the option to purchase the vehicle as their personal vehicle.
The senator said it is not fair that the lessee who pays the rental payments with public funds is the only one individual accorded the discount benefit to purchase the vehicle as personal vehicle. She said this scheme is not right.
In May 2018, then-Labor secretary DeLeon Guerrero was acquitted by Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho of three traffic charges—using a government vehicle that had tinting on its windows, that was not marked as a government vehicle, and did not bear government license plates.
Villagomez’s list submitted to OPA last Dec. 7 shows that, except for Reps. Vicente C. Camacho (D-Saipan), Edwin K. Propst (D-Saipan), and Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan), all House members have leased vehicles using government funds.
Villagomez’s list, a copy of which was forwarded to
Saipan Tribune, shows what type of vehicles, models and years are being leased by the 17 representatives.