After 9 Years CNMI Governor Restores Power To Utility Board

admin's picture

CUC state of emergency remains even as board reestablished

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 3, 2014) –Gov. Eloy S. Inos restored on Monday the full power of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board of directors, which will hold its first board meeting today—nine years since the last one was abolished. But the governor continues to place CUC under a state of emergency because financial and technical worker crises remain, although he amended his latest executive order to officially acknowledge a "fully functioning" board "to direct the operations of CUC."

For some nine years, starting with Inos’ predecessors, the governor has assumed "all powers and duties of the board of directors of CUC."

Inos, as early as last year, said he would like to restore the CUC board and started nominating individuals to serve on the board, three of them recently confirmed by the Senate.

They include David J. Sablan Jr., Adelina Roberto, and Christopher Concepcion. Commonwealth Development Authority board chair Diego Songao also becomes an automatic member of the CUC board. Under the law, the CDA board chairman also becomes a member of the CUC board.

The governor also recently appointed Joseph T. Torres to serve on the CUC board representing Saipan, but the Senate has yet to confirm his appointment.

Inos officially restored CUC board’s power on March 31 when he amended his March 14 executive order on CUC’s emergency for another 30 days.

"Whereas, a fully functioning board of directors now exists to direct the operations of CUC. Thus, Executive Order No. 2014-04 must be amended to reflect this fact and allow the board to resume its proper role in directing the affairs of CUC," Inos said in the EO amendment dated March 31, but was received by the Legislature only on April 1.

The lack of a functioning CUC board was among the reasons for placing the corporation under a state of emergency, along with financial and technical worker crises.

Inos said CUC is still owed some $20 million by the Public School System and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., and is owed millions more by residential owners.

The governor added that, although the economy has recently improved, the improvement is only marginal and the economy and the government’s finances are still fragile.

House vice speaker Frank Dela Cruz (Ind-Saipan) said in an interview he’s "glad" that the CUC board has been re-established and looks forward to more improvements at CUC’s operations and policy decisions.

"I hope they [board] can now look at CUC under a microscope and see exactly how the operation of CUC is handled by its management. I’ve gone as far as presenting a House joint resolution for the removal of Mr. [Alan] Fletcher. I believe that CUC can be run more efficiently and less costly than under Mr. Fletcher’s management," Dela Cruz said.

The House vice speaker has been critical of the way CUC is being run, but Fletcher said CUC has been operating in the best manner it can given its limited resources and the circumstances. Dela Cruz said the CUC board members "need to get their feet wet before making any decision."

"And I think it’s high time that CUC is made to walk on its own two feet, not dictated under orders of the governor," he added.

Dela Cruz also hopes that government agencies will pay their arrears with CUC, and that government agencies owing money to the utilities agency should not be treated differently from residential and commercial customers.

"The board is not for the administration but for CUC and the people they serve. They have to be fair. CUC should not treat the government differently," the lawmaker added.

He also hopes that the CUC board will work on lowering utility rates for its customers.

Today’s CUC board meeting, starting at 9am, will be a reorganizational one to elect the board officers and adopt rules of procedure, among other things

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment