OPA: 70 govt officials penalized


Nearly 21 percent or 70 of 334 CNMI government officials who are required to file a statement of financial interest for 2013 continue to accrue a $10 daily penalty for failing to comply with the filing requirement two months since the May 31 deadline.

The total accrued penalty is $42,000 as of today.

Data obtained by Saipan Tribune yesterday from the Office of the Public Auditor shows that nine other government officials filed on or after June 1.

Four of them paid the $10 daily fine, and five were given a waiver.

Wilma Atalig, auditor at OPA’s Ethics and Compliance Unit, said yesterday that the Department of Finance secretary certified that 334 government officials were required to file a 2013 statement of financial interest and 70 of them continue to accrue a $10 penalty for every single day they fail to file their statement.

Under the Government Ethics Code Act, all elected and appointed CNMI officials, judicial officers, and executive department heads or directors are required to file a statement of financial interest. These include appointees to boards, commissions, councils or task forces.

Atalig said the total number of filing as of the initial May 1 deadline was 196, including one that was received via mail and postmarked before the initial deadline.

There is a 30-day grace period, however. Atalig said there were 59 late-filers or those who filed after the May 1 initial deadline and up to the May 31 final deadline, but were not assessed a penalty.

The bulk of late-filers are from boards and commissions.

Unlike many other jurisdictions and countries, CNMI law does not make financial statements public. The assets and liabilities of elected officials are not readily available for public inspection. OPA can only release the documents with the consent of the filer.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said in an open letter in May that since public officials make decisions that affect the financial interest of everyone in the CNMI, “it is only right that we should all know how those decisions affect the pocketbooks of public officials.”

“Open disclosure will not stop officials from making decisions based on their own financial self-interest. But at least we will be able to see it,” he said.

He said based on research, courts have generally not seen any constitutional right to privacy when it comes to the finances of public officials. Sablan said there are some 30,000 people in the federal government who are required by law to file public financial disclosure reports. These officials are in all three branches of government—the legislative, executive, and judicial. He is among those.

To date, no member of the CNMI Legislature has taken up the issue or introduced a bill that would make CNMI public officials’ statements of financial interest readily available to the public.

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.

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.