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U.S. ‘stimulus’ funds require accountability

By Gemma Q. Casas SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 30, 2009) – In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) the Fitial administration has announced new transparency rules on how contracts for the multi-million-dollar American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), or the federal stimulus law. The CNMI stands to receive ARRA funding over the next three years and will need to comply with the federal government’s call for accountability.

The CNMI stands to receive more than US$90 million in formula grants under the ARRA and must separately compete for more than US$400 million in competitive grants available for insular areas.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said the new transparency rules will be applied to all agencies and programs under the executive branch.

Autonomous agencies like the Public School System, the single-biggest recipient of stimulus funds, will separately follow certain requirements on how the grants will be spent.

The governor ordered offices within the executive branch to announce all projects, programs and positions funded under the stimulus law on with concurrent advertisements in other media.

"Failure to properly post and announce opportunities will result in the denial of the execution of contracts and/or non-payment for services or goods procured," the governor said in his Dec. 21 memorandum.

He said all contracts and procurement of goods or services which did not follow the rules will not be paid from funds through the Office of the Governor.

"The administration expects that the CNMI manage funds available through the ARRA expediently, transparently and with the highest level of accountability. As such, noncommittal of funds due to noncompliance to established transparency requirements may result in a request from the primary grantee to reprogram funds from the federal grantor," Fitial added.

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