Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) hopes the Legislature would do an oversight to shed light on issues surrounding the Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, after last Friday’s confusion brought by what the company described as a “partial delay” in its payroll.
In a statement, IPI said that “transfer issues” caused the delay in the payroll but they had already paid over 2,000 of their hourly workers last Friday while all salary employees would be paid within the week.
“[IPI] intends to meet our obligations and asks for the community’s continued support, patience and understanding,” added the IPI statement.
In a separate memorandum sent earlier to IPI employees, it quoted IPI chief executive officer Henry Cheang as saying that they regret the inconvenience caused by the problem. “IPI regrets the inconvenience and any hardship this payroll delay causes for you and your loved ones.”
“IPI’s Human Resources department and your supervisors will immediately inform all of you as soon as possible via email or text as the circumstances dictate, which will include whether paychecks will be issued only in paper form for all employees, including those who have direct deposit,” added Cheang.
Propst said the House Gaming committee, chaired by Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan), has the power to call for an oversight and look into certain things that involves the casino.
“[But] that would be up to their [House Gaming Committee’s] discretion. Aside from the Legislature, we already have a proper regulating agency and that is the Commonwealth Casino Commission. But the Legislature needs to consider doing an oversight because there’s a lot of unanswered questions,” said Propst.
In a separate post on social media, Propst cited the difficulty of obtaining any statement from the commission.
CCC to look into matter
Deleon Guerrero, in an interview with the Saipan Tribune, said they would schedule a meeting with casino commission officials this week to seek answers.
“First of all, I’m not even going to dignify that request for an oversight by responding to it. We will look into the matter, yes. We will meet with CCC this week and then we will find out what’s going on and from there, determine what course of action is appropriate,” said Deleon Guerrero.
In a separate interview with the Saipan Tribune, CCC vice chair Joseph Reyes said that commission chair Juan Sablan had already inquired about the issue with IPI. “We don’t speculate on things until we have all the facts. There are always two sides in every story.
“The employees were paid accordingly and the money transfer just came in late. We will still see what happens with this issue. We [CCC] takes things seriously and we’re on top of it,” he added.
Propst said the casino commission’s “silence” as well as that of other officials is a concern. “I’m just wondering why we have [yet] to hear from the executive director [Edward Deleon Guerrero]. I’m hoping to hear what he has to say from these issues. We never hear them [CCC]. “
“They are supposed to be regulating the casino, but we haven’t seen much taking in place. [There’s] total silence also when Pacific Rim [Contractors] laid off its workers—including locals where I’m told that 200 lost their jobs. They are out there looking for jobs.”
“Why are we not hearing from any of our government agencies? We haven’t heard. There’s total silence on the hill. I don’t hear our colleagues talking or asking questions, like nothing’s happening,” added Propst.
Propst said it appears that IPI is having difficulties in settling its financial obligations. “They still owe GPPC [Inc.], they owe several other—even small vendors—that they haven’t been able to pay. They missed payroll and were only able to pay their hourly workers and not their managers.”
“[That’s] not to mention that they no longer do business with Pacific Rim. Pacific Rim is reportedly owed $16 million. They can correct me if I’m wrong in that figure but I know what is owed is in the millions,” he added.
He said that construction materials have also become a problem. “I’m hearing now that IPI is having difficulty in trying to bring in construction materials because they haven’t paid the vendor that they have been doing business with.”