OPA gives way to OAG review

The Office of the Public Auditor is giving way-at least for now-to the Office of the Attorney General on the review of legal fees incurred by the NMI Retirement Fund in filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. A federal judge later dismissed the bankruptcy petition.

Public Auditor Michael Pai confirmed yesterday that OPA received a letter from Rep. Frank Dela Cruz (R-Saipan), adding that they have discussed the matter on the Fund legal fees and “decided that since the OAG is already working on this matter, OPA should wait for the results of the OAG’s work before proceeding with its own.”

“This approach would minimize a duplication of effort,” Pai told Saipan Tribune.

Dela Cruz asked OPA last week to audit the reported $1.2 million legal fees that the Fund is being billed related to the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. The amount has since been disputed, with court filings indicating it’s less than $1.2 million.

In a phone interview yesterday, Dela Cruz said he understands and supports OPA’s decision to give way to the OAG review.

“I also don’t want OPA to duplicate the work that’s being done by the AG’s Office. I will wait until the AG is done with its review, and we would see what the result will be, and we move from there,” he said.

Dela Cruz had also asked OPA to determine the work performed by all legal firms in the filing of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition on behalf of the Fund, a listing of all legal firms involved in the case and their hourly rate charge, and the number of hours charged by each legal firm.

He also asked OPA to determine whether the Fund issued a request for proposal or awarded a sole-source contract for its bankruptcy lawyers, including the Boston-based Brown & Rudnick law firm. Dela Cruz also asked whether the decision to file for bankruptcy and the retention of legal counsels made in public meetings pursuant to the Open Government Act.

The NMI Retirement Fund is the first public pension agency on American soil to seek bankruptcy protection. The governor placed the Fund under a state of emergency after a federal judge indicated that he will dismiss the bankruptcy petition.

By Haidee V. Eugenio

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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