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By Ulysses Torres Sabuco

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 6) –For failure to pay an estimated $16,000 in rent, the Rota Department of Community and Cultural Affairs on Rota was padlocked, affecting more than a dozen government employees, Representative Crispin M. Ogo confirmed on Friday.

Ogo, however, said he is now spearheading efforts to find money to pay the vendor, whom he identified as the Tamara and Seven Brother Co.

"There are displaced government employees. The office has not paid (its) rent. It is a very crucial department," said Ogo (Covenant-Rota). "I am working on it now, looking for funds..."

DCCA Secretary Juan L. Babauta could not be reached for comment, while Rota Mayor Benjamin T. Manglona was unavailable yesterday.

But Senate Floor Leader Paul A. Manglona (R-Rota), and a member of the Rota Legislative Delegation, said he was "unaware" of the situation.

"That should not be a problem because we budget office rentals for all offices," Manglona told Variety yesterday.

But Manglona admitted that the situation is unavoidable.

"I understand that some of these office rentals are being reprogrammed. That is why the delegation agreed to put in the (fiscal year 2005) budget that office rentals should not be reprogrammed," Manglona added.

He lamented, however, that "a lot of times" appropriations for office rentals "are reprogrammed" causing such situations.

The Senate, Manglona added, has put "restrictions" in the FY 2005 budget, particularly in the reprogramming language under the administrative provision of the proposed new spending plan.

Ogo, meanwhile, said he was told that the Rota DCCA office was padlocked and its employees have no choice but to stay "outside."

"Probably more than a dozen employees are displaced. I guess they are outside, they cannot enter because of that reason," Ogo said. They are renting it from Tamara and Seven Brothers Company and they failed to pay."

The DCCA is an umbrella department of the Divisions of Youth Services, Arts Council, Language Commission and Sports and Recreation. The different divisions employ between two to three employees.

"As of last Friday (Nov. 26) they do not have office. It has been padlocked. I just found out now when it was brought to my attention, they’ve been out of the office for a week now and it is an issue that we need to address," Ogo added.

Ogo said the payement will be sourced from "lapsed funds" for the municipality.

"It is sad that all the divisions are affected," he added.

December 6, 2004

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