SOLE CNMI LAWMAKER COMPLIES WITH TRANSPARENCY CALL

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By Moneth G. Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 1) – Representative Stanley T. Torres is the first Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands lawmaker to disclose his expenditures as requested by a group of concerned citizens.

"We’re happy that he’s open to our request and I believe other lawmaker will also be willing to provide with us their expenditures; they have 30 days," said Tina Sablan, spokeswoman of the group, yesterday.

In fiscal year 2006, Torres, Ind.-Saipan, spent US$101,663.

Each lawmaker gets US$155,000 for personnel and operations.

The cost for Torres’ six personnel amounted to US$98,650. He incurred vehicle rental costs of US$2,413 and US$600 for office supplies and operations.

He did not spend anything on travel and did not receive a subsistence allowance.

As of April 23, his office had spent US$136,567 for personnel and operations — US$133,500 for the six personnel; US$275, PTI communications; US$1,592, office supplies; US$11,592, fuel; and US$850 in donations to schools and community activities.

"I have nothing to hide," Torres said, "and you can see that I don’t condone government travel or subsistence allowances for legislators. I don’t travel and I even turned in my government-leased vehicle back in the spring of 2006."

Torres said he appreciates the group’s concern about how taxpayers’ money is spent by their government.

He added that he believes in "open and transparent" government.

Sablan said Senate Vice President Pete P. Reyes, Ind.-Saipan, Sen. Maria T. Pangelinan, D-Saipan, and Rep. Cinta M. Kaipat, Covenant-Saipan, are among the other lawmakers willing to disclose their expenditures.

In an earlier e-mail to Variety, Sablan said their request for disclosure "is just the first step toward improving government accountability which is a subject that has come up again and again at the public forums. The group plans to review and organize the information it receives from the Legislature, and to publicize their findings to the community through the media and public forums."

Sablan said they are also preparing popular initiatives to nullify the exemption from the Open Government Act that the Legislature enjoys, and to require annual expenditure reports from every lawmaker.

Marianas Variety

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