DPL audit shows no major citations

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FOR the fourth consecutive year, an audit of the Department of Public Lands finances found no major auditing citations.

The department, which  commissions an audit after the end of every fiscal year, has a constitutional obligation to remit all remaining public land revenue after necessary expenses to the Marianas Public Land Trust.

In FY 2020, the department had an annual budget of $4.1 million and $5.39 million in total revenue.

Revenue was generated from long-term leases, business gross revenue taxes, royalties, temporary permits, commercial permits, adjusted gross profits or AGP, and submerged land.

Over $2.1 million came from long-term leases; more than $1.2 million from the BGRT; roughly $224,000 from royalties; less than $377,000 from temporary permits; over $5,000 from commercial permits; less than $17,000 from AGP; and $60,000 from submerged land.

The department had roughly $1.3 million in non-accounts receivable collections in FY 2020.

DPL has extended the U.S. General Services Administration lease for another year and Ken Coward’s lease for 15 years.

It also granted West Lake Motors a 25-year lease, and Fiesta Resort & Spa, under a new owner, a 40-year lease.

Almost every year so far, the actual DPL annual revenue has surpassed its projected revenue.

However, there has been a downward trend in revenue after 2018 due to the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yutu as well as the present Covid-19 crisis.

In response to the current pandemic, DPL said it has collaborated with the Office of the Governor, the Department of Public Works, and other departments and agencies to convert and maintain the former Mariana Resort in Marpi into an active Covid-19 quarantine site for incoming passengers.

Over 2,500 in personnel hours was invested to prepare the facility DPL said, adding that it also hired 11 temporary staff members to assist with the maintenance and upkeep of the unleased properties in Marpi.

In FY 2020, DPL spent nearly $2.8 million on payroll and over $1.1 million in total operating expenses.

Operating costs included more than $45,000 in travel expenses as well as over $978,000 in accounts payable expenses.

Since March 2019, the DPL planning division has taken weekly trips with a crew of approximately six surveyors per trip between Saipan and Tinian to survey land for 100 agricultural homestead lots.

Surveyors also traveled to Rota early last year to begin surveying the Finafa area, DPL said.

In addition, certifications for land compensation payments amounting to $405,586 were issued to land compensation claimants who have executed and completed land exchange documents.

DPL said it has had challenges with infrastructure, the Covid-19 pandemic, hiring, collections, and training.

In the coming year, it intends to conduct a homestead lottery on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota; begin an agricultural homestead program for the Northern Islands; negotiate the best and highest use of public lands; work with lessees, permittees, and homesteaders to improve DPL regulations; find a permanent location for the DPL office; complete the Managaha Safety Railing Project; ensure that all permitting files are updated; and secure more public benefits for people of Northern Marianas Descent or NMDs.

The mission of DPL is to “provide for efficient and effective services in the management, use, disposition, and development of public lands for the economic and social betterment of NMDs, as well as to implement a Strategic Land Use Plan to promote cultural and economic growth for the benefit of present and future generations.”

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