Former NMI Retirement Fund administrator Karl T. Reyes said the agency was in good financial standing when he was at the helm of the fund manager of the CNMI’s current and former government employees.
The Retirement Fund is one of the issues that the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is comparing under the leadership of former governor Juan N. Babauta.
Babauta, who is again running for the CNMI’s top executive post, appointed Reyes to head the Retirement Fund in 2002. Babauta is seeking his former post as an independent with former CNMI State Public School System commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan as his running mate.
Reyes said the Fund’s investments were only about $11 million but he managed to increase the funds by constantly communicating with the investment companies that handled their money in the mainland.
“It went up until we were able to hold it for many years even if funds from the government [were not coming in]… [It was] over $100 million when I left, before I came in it was just $8 million some,” Reyes told members of the media after the local Democratic Party announced their support to the Babauta-Sablan independent ticket.
Reyes said that the Fund’s former board member had been complacent with their job. “When I came in, I found out that the board members were not calling the investors of the Retirement Fund. None of them were really doing their job.”
“When I took over, I did that requirement to contact the investors, because the investors are needed to be contacted for them to do the investment more. Or what they are asking ‘where do you want us to invest?’ and things like that.”
He added that representatives of the investment companies tapped by the Fund back then did not know that the CNMI, Saipan in particular, is far from the mainland. “They learned later on that we are far from Washington, D.C. for them to help us [in] the daily investment of the funds that we have.”
“What’s very important is how we increase[d] our funding all together in my years at [the Fund], of about 5 1/2 years of work, the increase went up by 100 percent,” said Reyes, who added that getting in touch with the investment companies was the key in effectively handling the Fund’s investments.
He said that he made sure that those who handled the Fund’s money would put the funds into investment that had the opportunity of higher returns. “[I’ve asked] them to please check the best possible places to invest the funds because we don’t have government funding on Saipan.”
“That’s another thing that they helped us with. They found out later that we really need the money to increase funding for our retirees. Before, the board members only meet once a month or at least twice a month and it is only then that they contact the investors.”
Reyes added that he was always in touch with investment companies. “They are also sending us information through email to see what investment is the best.”