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Last updateThu, 21 Nov 2019 12am

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    Wednesday, November 20, 2019-8:34:48P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Retiree asks AG to ‘break silence’ on lawmakers’ subsistence allowance

RETIREE Patricia Guerrero on Friday delivered by hand a letter to the office of Attorney General Edward Manibusan, asking him to issue an official opinion on House Resolution 21-4, which allows members of the House of Representatives to draw down up to $5,000 from their office allocations.

Patricia Guerrero

Guerrero also asked Public Auditor Michael Pai to conduct an audit on how each of the House members who have drawn down from the funds used the money.

“The people deserve to know what this money is being spent on, whether those expenditures are consistent with legislative purposes and the CNMI Constitution, whether their elected representatives are keeping proper records, or whether perhaps these allowances are maybe being abused,” Guerrero said in her letter.

A few weeks after the House adopted H.R. 21-4, Pai issued an opinion saying it “violates the letter and spirit of the Commonwealth Constitution and, even if lawful, would create ideal conditions for poor accountability of public funds.”

The House minority bloc members prevented the immediate passage of the resolution in April. It was later unanimously adopted with a number of floor amendments that provided for accountability.

Guerrero said she was making her request “on behalf of the people of the CNMI” for three reasons: “many people are very concerned and are questioning the subsistence allowance for lawmakers; Manibusan is an elected attorney general of the Commonwealth; and CNMI taxpayers paid for the lawmakers’ subsistence allowance.”

In her letter to the AG, Guerrero said, “Another long-standing legislative practice — use of legislative funds for grants to sports teams, community projects, or other ‘good causes’ — should be examined in your official opinion as to whether it is consistent with the constitutional limitations on the use of legislative funds, particularly the prohibition of spending for personal or political activities.”

In an interview, House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan, who authored H.R. 21-4, said he welcomes an AG opinion or any OPA investigation as requested by Guerrero.

He noted that the resolution requires accountability, so he is confident that House members will not use the funds for their personal benefit.

Sablan also said that not all members have drawn down from their office allocations. He said he is one of those who have not drawn down from the funds.

For those who have done so, he is sure they have records and documentations that explain the expenditures, Sablan said, adding that any taxpayer has the right to know how these funds are spent.