Proposed NMC exemption from 1% fee concerns OPA

THE Office of Public Auditor on Tuesday expressed concern over a bill that would exempt Northern Marianas College from remitting 1 percent of its annual funding allocations to OPA.

Rep. Roman Benavente has introduced House Bill 21-40 because he said he wants to help NMC which has yet to completely recover from the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yutu in October.

CNMI law currently requires all government agencies to remit 1 percent of their annual funding allocations to OPA.

In a June 18 letter, OPA legal counsel Ashley Kost asked Benavente “to consider the potential consequences of reducing our budget and how difficult it is to overcome the slippery slope once exemptions are made for some and not others.”

She added, “If NMC is exempted from paying the 1 percent, which agency would make a request for exemption next?”

She said OPA’s funding is already perilous because almost all of the autonomous agencies fail to pay their statutorily required 1 percent, including NMC.

Kost acknowledged that “these are difficult times for everyone in the CNMI,” adding that “OPA understands the devastation [caused by] Typhoon Yutu.”

But she said Benavente’s bill would exempt NMC from paying the 1 percent long after it has recovered from typhoon.

Benavente said he will address OPA’s concern by adding a sunset provision to the bill.