HALF OF CNMI OFFICIALS FAIL TO REPORT FINANCES

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By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 8) – About 48 percent or 201 of the 423 Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) government officials required to file statements of financial interests for calendar year 2006 failed to do so by the May 1 deadline, which the Office of the Public Auditor says is "quite disappointing."

"Almost 50 percent did not file on time. It’s quite disappointing," Public Auditor Mike Sablan told Variety yesterday.

He said "Office of the Public Auditor has invested significant resources to remind, inform and follow up on the filing. But we will continue to remind them. We consider the filing of financial statements critical in terms of transparency in government."

Under the CNMI Government Ethics Code Act, elected and appointed officials, judicial officers and executive department heads or directors are required to file statements of financial interests by May 1.

For 2006, there are 423 government officials required to file, based on the Department of Finance’s certified list although Office of the Public Auditor said there may be others to be added to the list later.

Of this number, only 222 or 52 percent beat the May 1 deadline.

Between May 2 and yesterday, 15 more government officials filed statements, bringing to 186 the number of government officials who have yet to file.

"As of (Monday) morning, no extension requests (for filing) were received," said Sablan.

The law, however, allows a 30-day grace period for the filing of financial statements before a late filing fee is imposed.

"If they fail to file by May 31, they will be assessed a US$10 per day late filing fee," Sablan said.

In the past, he said, there was at least one government official who had to pay US$700 in late fees, while others had to pay over US$100.

Office of the Public Auditor personnel will be on Tinian this Wednesday to assist government officials in filing their statements of financial interests. Office of the Public Auditor personnel will also be on Rota on Friday for the same purpose. The public auditor said Office of the Public Auditor personnel would be available at the offices of the mayors on the two islands.

Marianas Variety

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