Marianas Variety

Thursday, October 23, 2014-3:41:30A.M.

Last updateThu, 23 Oct 2014 12am

Headlines:

Public auditor keeps off ARRA probe

PUBLIC Auditor Michael Pai has recused himself from the investigation into the $392,000 contract awarded by the governor to former Commerce Secretary Mike Ada to handle American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects in the CNMI.

Pai designated OPA’s new legal counsel George L. Hasselback to handle the probe which was requested by the Senate.

Pai responded yesterday to Senate Resolution 17-63 requesting him to “supplement” a U.S. inspector general’s findings that Ada’s Integrated Professional Solutions violated a CNMI ethics rules.

Pai told Senate President Paul A. Manglona in a letter that the allegations of conflict of interest “may have some merit.”

However, the public auditor added, “there have been many accusations, both personal and professional, claiming that there exist impermissible conflicts preventing me from being capable of continuing the investigation.”

Assuring Manglona that there are no legitimate grounds to support these allegations against him, Pai said he is ready  and willing to continue to do his duties as public auditor, free from any actual conflict.

But because he wants OPA to be free from any “hint of impropriety,” Pai said, “I have decided to recuse myself from further involvement in the investigation of events as mandated by Senate Resolution 17-63.”

He told Manglona that he delegated part of his authority to Hasselback who now heads OPA’s investigation division.

“For the duration of the investigation pursuant to Senate Resolution 17-63, Mr. Hasselback will act on my stead and have ultimate responsibility for the investigation, analysis and prosecution of any wrong doing that may be discovered as may be appropriate. He will in effect stand in my shoes as public auditor for the purpose of this investigation,” Pai told Manglona.

Pai  said he has asked Hasselback to complete the investigation of IPS’s $392,000 sole-source contract with Fitial administration “as quickly and as prudent and will issue a report without a delay.”

Pai has publicly clashed with Attorney General Edward Buckingham over this and other controversies. The governor, in an interview last year, defended his AG and lashed out at OPA, saying it was “disrespectful” and “thinks that [it’s] god.”