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By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 5) – The outgoing administration of Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Juan Babauta, which has been criticized for its frequent junkets, has now placed a cap on the per diem allowance for off-island travels.

Traveling government officials and employees are also now required to submit their airline boarding passes and phone billing records to justify their travel spending.

The maximum daily limit for car rental and all associated costs for off-island travel is $70, while the breakfast allowance is now limited to $7, lunch to $8, and dinner to $10.

Air travel is to be in coach or economy class. The traveling government official or employee himself will have to pay the additional cost of business or first class travel.

These travel policies are now in effect, following the adoption of emergency travel expense regulations.

The per diem allowance for travel within the CNMI is now limited to $85.

For travel to Guam, the maximum per diem allowance is limited to $175.

Those who are authorized to travel to Hawaii, California, New York and Washington, D.C. will have a maximum per diem allowance of $250, and $200 per diem for travel to other U.S. states.

The per diem allowance for travel to the Far East and Southeast Asia is now limited to $200 a day and $150 for travel to the Federated States of Micronesia.

The per diem allowance for travel to Japan is now $275.

The new emergency travel expense regulations appeared in the Commonwealth Registrar on Dec. 20.

"The purpose of these regulations is to establish uniform procedures for the regulation of travel expenses," Finance Secretary Fermin Atalig said in a Dec. 13 notice of adoption of the emergency travel expense regulations.

He said that the CNMI has a duty to ensure that all business-related travel is "for necessary purposes and that expenses are reasonable."

The boarding passes for all airline flight segments are now to be presented to Finance.

"Employees who are missing a boarding pass for a leg of airline travel may present alternative evidence of completion of travel and affidavit attesting to use of the ticket," according to the new travel regulations.

Also required are receipts for lodging expenses; telephone billing records; receipts for meals (unless the employee is using per diem allowance); car rental contracts; gasoline purchase receipts; receipts for ground transportation like taxis, trains and subways; and parking receipts.

"Falsification of any information presented on the travel expense forms is a violation of these regulations and may result in denial of reimbursement for travel expenses and/or disciplinary action up to and including discharge and referral to the Office of the Attorney General for possible criminal prosecution," the new travel rules state.

January 5, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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