MARIANAS LAND AGENCY SPENT MORE THAN IT EARNED

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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 28) - The defunct Marianas Public Lands Authority was operating on a US$4.9 million spending level this fiscal year 2006 although its projected income from Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands public land leases would reach only US$3.2 million, according to official documents obtained by Variety.

According to its summary of estimated revenues, the abolished agency, which has since been renamed the Department of Public Lands, allocated more than US$300,000 for the board’s airfare, per diem, car rentals and compensation.

The agency’s actual revenue, however, was short more than US$1.7 million to fully finance all of its projected operating expenses.

According to official data, the public lands agency was projecting collections of US$1.8 million through September 30, 2006, from long-term leases.

Of this figure, US$1.6 million were collectibles from Saipan; US$182,244 from Rota; and US$5,055 from Tinian.

In terms of percentage of gross receipts, Marianas Public Lands Authority stood to collect US$997,786 in fiscal year 2006.

Its projected income from combined collections from temporary and commercial permits this year would reach US$255,527.

It also stood to collect US$60,000 from submerged lands and another US$112,003 from royalty fees.

However, the defunct agency’s projected expenses would reach US$4,985,530 largely due to the high salaries of its top management personnel.

In all, the agency’s projected deficit was more than US$1.7 million.

With the enactment of a new law that turned Marianas Public Lands Authority into another department in the executive branch, the agency is expected to save board compensation expenses as well as the former commissioner’s salary of US$84,000 a year.

Documents show that the former Marianas Public Lands Authority board allocated more than US$300,000 this fiscal year for their own airfare, per diem, car rentals and compensation.

Some perks and benefits given to other employees are currently being reviewed and could be altered in light of the administration’s proposal to reduce the work hours of nonessential government employees across-the-board to save money.

March 1, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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