Governor approves bill’s provision that transfers MRSO to CHCCC; prioritizes $9M from ARPA money for transition
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres vetoed a provision in the budget bill for fiscal year 2022 that mandates the Commonwealth Election Commission to hire not more than 20 temporary employees for the general or special elections, requiring the personnel to be derived from a list provided by registered political parties.
Torres said this provision is unconstitutional and unenforceable when the process of hiring becomes politically motivated. Instead, the governor said, they must continue to seek qualified nonpartisan employees.
“For this reason, I must respectfully veto this provision,” said Torres in a letter Thursday, notifying Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) and House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) of his signing of the budget bill into Public Law 22-08.
The CEC hiring provision was among the issues that Torres vetoed or line-item vetoed in the budget bill that he signed into law.
As for the approved parts of the budget bill, the governor noted a provision that transfers the administration of the Medical Referral Program to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. He said because CHCC has the expertise and is best-equipped to handle all healthcare-related issues pertaining to the Commonwealth, he fully supports this transfer.
Torres said his administration has prioritized $9 million under the American Rescue Plan Act to provide CHCC with the resources it needs to successfully transition back to the corporation the Medical Referral Program.
The Office of the Public Auditor has found through its audit that the lack of effective internal controls at the CNMI Medical Referral Services Office has led the entity to spend $27 million over its budget in fiscal years 18 to 19.
According to OPA’s recently released audit report, the Office of the Attorney General determined that Executive Order 2013-09 has no legal authority to re-allocate MRSO from the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. to the Office of the Governor.
OPA conducted the audit on MRSO for fiscal years 2018 to 2020 to determine if effective internal controls are in place to ensure proper cash management, issue and enforce promissory notes, and ensure compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulation when determining patient and escort eligibility.