Some CNMI Agencies Have Phone, Internet Cut Over Unpaid Bills

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Accuracy of $2 million in outstanding bills being discussed

By Andrew O. De Guzman

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 2, 2014) – IT&E cut the phone and internet connections of some government offices on Friday morning for failure to pay outstanding bills.

These government offices included the Arts Council, the Public Defender’s Office, the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality and the Retirement Fund.

Asked for comment, IT&E marketing manager Hans Mickelson cited the confidentiality of their records.

During a hearing on the motion for the preliminary injunction in the lawsuit against the Saipan casino law in Superior Court on Friday afternoon, Department of Finance Secretary Larissa Larson said the CNMI government had been closely working with IT&E to resolve outstanding phone bills, amounting to $2 million.

"Our issue with IT&E is something that is still under discussion. Right now, IT&E is claiming that we owe $2 million. What we are doing is we are reconciling billings that date way back before my time in office," said Larson, adding that they were past due accounts from various government agencies.

She said government agencies are doing their own research to certify what bills were truly owed or what bills needed to be disputed.

"That’s how we are addressing that amount," Larson said. "We’ve been going through [the list] one by one."

When asked by this reporter if the government could pay IT&E through a tax off-set, Larson said: "We don’t plan to do an off-set of tax obligations. Our primary goal is paying all of our obligations and that means all government agencies will have to submit their bills, and then we will pay them."

She added, "What we feel is when the government, just like private citizens, incur expenses, then it should pay them. That’s what we are doing here."

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