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Last updateSat, 16 Dec 2017 12am

     

     

     

     

     

    Saturday, December 16, 2017-1:55:35A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Senate passes conflict-of-interest measure

THE Senate has passed a proposed measure that would require public officials and vendors to fill out and submit conflict-of-interest questionnaires.

During a session on Rota last week, all eight members present voted yes to Senate Bill 20-44, introduced by Sen. Sixto Igisomar.

Senate Floor Leader Frank Borja was absent.

The measure, which now goes to the House, states that “public officials have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the government entity that they represent and not to violate the provisions of the CNMI Ethics Code when carrying out their duties and responsibilities.”

The bill added that “the failure of certain CNMI public officials to disclose conflicts of interest in connection with contracts and vendors doing business with their government entity continues to be an issue of great concern.”

The bill also noted the need “to develop a comprehensive and exhaustive conflict-of-interest inquiry form to avoid any appearance of impropriety. The Legislature finds that the only way to ensure that certain public officials disclose any conflict of interest before they vote to approve or execute a contract is to require public officials to complete a conflict-of-interest questionnaire with respect to a vendor if the vendor enters into a contract with the governmental entity of the public official or the government entity is considering entering into a contract with the vendor.”

Commonwealth Development Authority Executive Director Manuel Sablan supports the measure.

He said it will require the filing of conflict-of-interest questionnaires not only by certain government officials who participate in the awarding of government contracts with private vendors, but also by private vendors themselves who have conflicted relationships with government officials involved in the awarding of such contracts.

“The legislation is intended to enhance greater transparency and accountability in the decision-making processes involving the contractual relationship between government agencies and private vendors (or contractors),” Sablan said in his written testimony submitted to Senate Vice President Steve Mesngon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Government and Law.

The Senate also passed the following:

• S.B. 20-46, introduced by Senator Igisomar, to adopt the international building code as the official building code of the CNMI;

• S.B. 20-40, introduced by Sen. Frank Cruz, to provide for the identification of disabled veterans on vehicle license plates;

• H.B. 20-66, introduced by House Floor Leader Glenn Maratita, to amend 1 CMC Section 8602 (b) Law Enforcement Mandatory Drug Testing, by eliminating the condition that testing is subject to the availability of funds;

• H.B. 20-63, also by Maratita, to require test-firing of all firearms as a prerequisite for registration of a firearm; and,

• H.B. 20-34 or the Handgun Prohibition Revival Act introduced by Rep. Vinnie Sablan, Rep. Blas Jonathan Attao and House Minority Leader Edmund Villagomez.

The bill disagrees with the federal court ruling which held that the CNMI handgun ban was unconstitutional. Proponents of the bill hope for the reversal of the court ruling.

The bill added that the ban “ought to be revived and reinstated in its entirety, so as to be ready to be enforced as soon as there is no controlling judicial decision blocking its decision.”

The Senate bills now go to the House while the House bills will be transmitted to the governor’s office.