$4 MILLION CHECK UNACCOUNTED FOR IN MARIANAS

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Check meant for utility agency never arrived

By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 2, 2008) – A Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) government check in the amount of US$4 million that was supposed to pay for the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s (CUC) fuel purchases two years ago never reached the agency, Variety learned yesterday.

Rep. Joseph C. Reyes, R-Saipan, said 16 documents transmitted to his office from the Commonwealth Development Authority and the Office of the Public Auditor indicated that the $4 million check issued to CUC on July 7, 2006 wasn’t used for its intended purpose.

Reyes told Speaker Arnold I. Palacios, R-Saipan, in a letter yesterday that CDA expressed its concern over the funds drawn from its Bank of Guam account "because it is continuously carried over to their subsequent years of audit by the Office of the Public Auditor."

"Mr. Oscar Camacho (acting executive director of CDA) informed me that he has not been favored with a reply by Finance Secretary Eloy Inos despite his numerous requests as to where this $4 million transfer went to," Reyes told Palacios.

"This fund is not to be used for operational expenses or other purposes. Mr. Guerrero of CUC claimed to have never received this money. Therefore, I’m requesting your good office to have this matter looked into by referring it to the appropriate committee(s) at your earliest convenience," he added.

Press Secretary Charles P. Reyes Jr. said the Attorney General’s Office would look into the documents before making any statements.

Letters were exchanged between CDA and CUC regarding the issue.

CDA’s inquiry to CUC regarding the $4 million check was prompted by OPA’s follow-up on CDA’s audit tracking report.

"OPA is currently working on updating the status of all outstanding recommendations as of Dec. 31, 2007. The outstanding recommendations pertaining to the Commonwealth Development Authority are listed in the enclosed draft copy of the updated audit tracking report," said Public Auditor Michael Sablan to Camacho in a letter dated March 17, 2008.

Documents showed that Camacho had been tracking down how the $4 million was spent as early as 2007.

CUC Executive Director Anthony C. Guerrero on Nov. 26, 2007 referred Camacho to Finance.

"In response to your letter dated Oct. 3, 2007, with respect to the $4 million transfer of funds to the administration, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has reviewed its records on file relating to the grant funds approved specifically for the emergency renovation and rehabilitation of its power generation system and plant facilities," Guerrero wrote to Camacho.

"Based on our review, we believe that the $1.9 million local share was not part of the $4 million given to the administration in July of 2006. As such, we defer to the Department of Finance as the appropriate agency to provide CDA with more accurate information regarding the use of those funds," he added.

CUC said its collections are not enough to pay for its fuel supply even after it doubled its power rates.

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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