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Six are elected officials

By Haidee V. Eugenio SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 5, 2011) – In the Northern Mariana Islands, six elected officials-including at least one lawmaker so far confirmed, are among the 84 government officials who failed to file their 2010 statement of financial interest with the Office of the Public Auditor (OPA) as of the May 2 deadline.

Of the 348 individuals required to file a statement of financial interest as certified by the Department of Finance, 264 or 76 percent were able to beat the May 2 deadline.

Public Auditor Michael Pai said yesterday that 84 officials have yet to file their statements of financial interest.

"Six elected officials failed to file by May 2nd," Pai told Saipan Tribune.

While OPA did not identify the six elected officials, many of the lawmakers asked yesterday said they have already filed their statement of financial interest in April. Some lawmakers and mayors did not respond to questions about their filing.

At least one lawmaker-House minority leader Diego Benavente (R-Saipan)-confirmed yesterday that he filed his statement of financial interest on May 3, which is a day after the May 2 deadline. But he won't be subjected to a US$10 fine per day of late filing.

Press secretary Angel Demapan also said yesterday that Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos have already filed theirs.

Of the 84 individuals who were not able to file by Monday, 69 are from Saipan, 11 are from Tinian, and four are from Rota.

Pai said this is the first filing year that OPA received more than half of the statements on or before the deadline compared to previous years.

The public auditor also said certified individuals have until May 21 to request for a 30-day extension. But he said Office of Public Auditor has not received any such request thus far.

"OPA urges all individuals required to file a statement to do so as soon as possible. A penalty of US$10 per day will be charged to late/non-filers beginning June 1, 2011," he said.

Under 1 CMC Section 8511 of the Government Ethics Code Act, all elected and appointed Commonwealth officials, judicial officers, and executive department heads or directors are required to file a Statement of Financial Interest.

The statement includes government officials' income, and financial interests in real estate, among other things.

Unlike many other jurisdictions, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) law does not make public financial statements. The assets and liabilities of elected officials are not readily available for public inspection. Office of Public Auditor can only release the documents with consent from the filer.

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