Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 19 Sep 2019 12am







    Wednesday, September 18, 2019-6:08:46A.M.






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Senator: Legislature should appropriate MPLT budget

SENATE Floor Leader Justo S. Quitugua has pre-filed Senate Legislative Initiative 21-1 that would require the Marianas Public Land Trust to submit to the Legislature its annual operating budget for approval and appropriation.

In an interview on Friday, Quitugua said his proposal is similar to S.L.I 21-2, which he also introduced to impose the same requirement on the Department of Public Lands.

Justo S. Quitugua

He noted that MPLT does not submit a copy of its annual budget to the governor as mandated by law.

Although Section 6, Article 11 of the CNMI Constitution does not require the governor or the Legislature to approve MPLT’s annual budget, Quitugua said the Constitution does not prevent MPLT from providing the governor a copy of its annual budget like all other government entities do.

The senator said MPLT’s authority to retain an amount from revenue transmitted by DPL for reasonable expenses must be provided by law.

Quitugua said MPLT’s lack of clear and concise duties, responsibilities and powers has led to contradictory interpretations and dissention among past administrations, MPLT trustees and lawmakers.

For example, he added, Section 6(f), Article 11 of the CNMI Constitution requires the trustees to submit an annual financial report, while the Government Ethics Code requires them to file by May 1 of each year a verified written statement of their financial interests.

However, Quitugua said, the trustees only disclose copies of their financial statements before their Senate confirmation. After being confirmed, the trustees do not file their an annual financial statements as required by the Constitution and law, he added.

Moreover, he said, the trustees’ compensation, travel and per diem rates as well as personnel and other components of the board operations may be inconsistent with those of the other government boards and commissions.

“It is imperative that all government boards and commissions have similar or consistent rule and regulations to promote transparency and accountability, and to prevent prohibited activities or corruption. As a result, the Legislature finds that it is necessary for Section 6 [of the Constitution] to be amended to clarify that other matters pertaining to the board of trustees’ composition, operations, and duties shall be provided by law,” S.L.I. 21-1 stated.

It also provides that “other matters pertaining to the board of trustees’ composition, operations and duties shall be provided by law.”

A legislative initiative is a proposal to amend the CNMI Constitution. It must be passed by an affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members of each house present and voting, and ratified by voters in a special or general election. A legislative initiative passed by the Legislature does not require the governor’s approval.