CNMI WORKERS OWE $1.5 MILLION FOR TRAVEL ADVANCES

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By Agnes Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, August 21) – Government employees owe the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands some $1.5 million for outstanding travel advances, according to an independent audit report.

A single audit conducted by Deloitte & Touche of the entire CNMI government showed that travel advances to employees were not being liquidated in a timely manner because travelers were not submitting their travel vouchers or returning unexpended funds.

As of Sept. 30, 2005, the central government recorded travel advances of $2.6 million. This amount represents advances outstanding and unliquidated for more than 90 days.

Deloitte & Touche found that $940,994 of the total amount remained unchanged when compared with the prior year. A close look at balances made by six different employees also showed that travel authorizations and vouchers were not being made available even after numerous requests.

The auditing firm concluded that the unliquidated advances accumulate not only because employees do not adhere to liquidation policies and procedures, but also because individual files are not readily accessible.

This situation could result in a misstatement of expenditures and related advances, Deloitte and Touche said.

But Bernardita C. Palacios, acting director of the Division of Finance and Accounting, said the outstanding amount had been reduced to $1.5 million as of May 31, 2006.

This came after the agency took measures such as implementing automated sub-ledgers for travel advance accounts; enforcing advance and voucher filing procedures so that new advances are not issued to any employee who has outstanding advances; making payroll deductions for late vouchers; and clearing old balances.

Deloitte and Touche noted that the problem with liquidation of advances had been reported in single audits of the CNMI government for fiscal years 1987 through 2004.

The firm recommended that the government review all advances outstanding for more than one year, assess if they could still be collected, and write off any amounts deemed uncollectible.

August 21, 2006

Saipan Tribune http://www.saipantribune.com

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