NORTHERN MARIANAS' GOVERNMENT DEFICIT AT US$ 57.3 MILLION LAST YEAR

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By Flor B. Pamintuan

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (December 16, 1998 - Saipan Tribune)---The CNMI government accumulated a deficit of $57.3 million between 1986 and Sept. 30, 1997, audited financial statements show.

The deficit began to mount beginning in 1986, but Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio, who was then in his second term, managed to hold it to $27 million when he left office.

The deficit took a huge leap in the ensuing years, notably during the gubernatorial term of Larry Guerrero.

When Froilan C. Tenorio took office, he had to deal with a $44.6 million deficit. He made only token efforts to pare it down, with two deficit-reduction outlays totaling $9.7 million in 1995. He, too, failed to rein in the deficit, which at the end of his term stood at $57 million.

Public Auditor Leo LaMotte said slack implementation of spending rules contributed to the deficit accumulation.

In 1997, for instance, an audit report repeated a number of ignored recommendations from a previous audit, which found questionable expenses of $11.8 million.

"Of the 61 audit findings, 34 have been cited in prior year's reports, for which no corrective actions have been taken," LaMotte said.

The auditor also attributed $22.5 million of the deficit to overspending by agencies, including the governor's office under the stewardship of Froilan C. Tenorio.

In 1997, he spent $10 million more than his $16.5 million allocation, the auditor said.

The three other agencies that exceeded their spending limits are:

• Department of Public Safety, $4 million;

• Department of Finance, $1 million; and

• Department of Public Works, $732,585.

Other offices that overspent their budget:

• Tinian mayor, $1.3 million;

• Rota mayor, $243,992;

• Saipan mayor, $144,309; and

• About $3 million was spent for other government programs.

Although 14 agencies did not exhaust their budget, their combined $16.4 million in savings were not significant in reducing the deficit, the report said.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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