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    Wednesday, September 18, 2019-9:30:37P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Propst wants OPA to disclose public officials’ wealth

HOUSE Minority Leader Edwin Propst on Friday pre-filed a bill that would allow the Office of Public Auditor to disclose to the public the financial statements of public and appointed government officials.

House Bill 21-74 is co-sponsored by Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao, Reps. Ralph Yumul, Tina Sablan, Shiela Babauta, Edmund Villagomez, Richard Lizama and Donald Manglona.

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House Minority Leader Edwin Propst, center, speaks with Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero, seated back to the camera, while and Rep. Richard Lizama, right, smiles during a House session in June.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

H.B. 21-74 or the Public Official Disclosure Act of 2019 states that reports on elected and appointed officials’ financial statement of interest should be made available to the public for inspection.

According to the bill, OPA will furnish the public copies of the financial statements upon the payment of “reasonable copying fees.” The measure would also require the public auditor to certify that an official or candidate for office has filed his or her financial statement.

Public Law 8-11 or the Government Ethics Code of 1992 requires all public officials to submit financial statements of interest to OPA, but these are kept strictly confidential unless the official or candidate authorizes OPA to make the financial information available to the public.

The bill would also require public officials to include in their financial reports the gross incomes of their spouse and dependent children.

H.B. 21-74 states that “the people have the right to know if public officials have become enriched while holding modest paying positions, or if politicians have made questionable or suspicious economic gains while in public office. The people have the right to know which public servants turned average salaries into extraordinary wealth and holdings.”

The bill added that its enactment “will only impair those who seek to conceal wealth and hide assets. In the spirit of transparency, accountability, and good governance, it is imperative that we embrace and follow public disclosure laws that exist in nearly all states and territories.”

On Facebook, Propst said the minority bloc has been talking about the introduction of the bill since the 20th Legislature “and is now doing something about it.”

His bill, he said, “aims to change the way that we are supposed to disclose our financial interests, and ensure that all public officials including those appointed disclose their income.”

Propst applauded Rep. Tina Sablan for taking the lead in sharing to the public her financial earnings.

Propst said his books are also open to the public. “They are welcome to look at the records,” he added as he urged other House members to support his bill.