PALAU SENATORS INQUIRE ABOUT USE OF ADB LOAN

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Alleges $2.5 million improperly paid to Utilities Corp.

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Jan. 31, 2012) – Palau Senators Tommy Remengesau Jr., Surangel Whipps Jr., Raynold Oilouch, Hokkons Baules and Camsek Chin requested documents from the minister of Finance with regard to the Republic’s US$16 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In a letter to Vice President and Finance Min. Kerai Mariur dated January 27, the senators said they are aware that President Toribiong has decided to write off approximately $2.5 million in debt to Palau Public Utilities Corporation when the company was temporarily under the control of the executive branch.

Additionally, the senators said they are also aware that the president has publicly stated that he intends to utilize portion of the $16 million ADB loan to pay back the rest of the debt to PPUC, which was publicly stated to be approximately $3.2 million.The senators said that the ADB loan was explicitly approved by the Olbiil Era Kelulau "to support the establishment of Palau Water and Sewer Corporation."

"Mr. Vice President, the undersigned respectfully request an opportunity to analyze all the documents related to these agreements on behalf of a concerned public in order to ensure that public funds are being used appropriately, according to the law, and according to the terms of the agreements entered into," the senators stated.

Requested by the minority senators from Mariur include the following: complete and up-to-date accounting of the "First Tranche" of the loan from ADB, which is reportedly not more than $9.8 million, and specifically how it is being used by the Republic; accounting of all bill the government owed to PPUC as of Sept. 30, 2011; accounting of all bills the government owes to PPUC after executive branch reportedly agreed with itself on the terms of the write off; accounting of which bills were written off; and copy of finalized agreement between Ministry of Finance and PPUC.

The senators expressed hope that Mariur will provide them what they are requesting.

The minority senators reminded Mariur of the previous requests they had, which according to them, are still not provided by the minister of Finance.

The senators asked Mariur to provide them the audit report for Fiscal Year 2010 (which was due June 30, 2011) as this is reportedly crucial to continued Compact funding from the United States, personnel listing of everyone who works for the national government and their salaries, records related to travel expenditures of the president and vice president, information on the terms, amount, interest rates and conditions that are either being considered by the president or those which have actually already been adopted for his travel expenses credit card and documents related to executive branch expenditures for FY 2011.

The senators questioned as to what has been causing the delay in releasing the audit report.

"What financial indiscretions is the executive branch attempting to hide from the citizens of the Republic by withholding the 2010 audit report? The request for these documents has been repeated and is ongoing. Please release the requested documents to the public as soon as possible," the senators stated.

Island Times yesterday tried to get comments from Mariur but the latter said he has yet to read the letter.

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