Bill will mandate public officials to disclose conflicts of interest

CITING the Senate Committee on Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications recommendations after conducting an oversight hearing on the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., Sen. Sixto Igisomar has introduced a measure to require public officials and vendors to fill out a conflict of interest questionnaire.

Senate Bill 20-44 is part of the committee’s recommendations.

Chaired by Igisomar, the Senate panel conducted an oversight hearing amid public outcry over the then-CUC board’s decision to purchase an $11 million power generator from General Pacific Services Marianas Inc. whose officials had close ties with certain CUC board members.

Sixto Igisomar

Gov. Ralph Torres later asked all the CUC board members to resign.

Besides the introduction of S.B. 20-44, the Senate committee recommended an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, the Office of the Public Auditor and the governor’s office.

The committee also recommended that CUC procure the services of a consultant to properly guide the CUC board and management in the proper direction and in the best interests of CUC and the commonwealth.

According to the committee, CUC board members must secure fiduciary certifications from the American Public Power Association, the American Water Works Association, the Pacific Power Association and the Pacific Water Works Association.

The committee also recommended that the governor immediately appoint new Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission members to establish a quorum.

The committee’s report stated that based on the testimony at the oversight hearing on April 11, 2017 “it appears that a conflict of interest among the CUC board members may have existed with regard to CUC-RFP 17-001 [the purchase of the power generator] which was subsequently changed to CUC RFQ-17-001. Certain board members should have recused themselves from participating, negotiating or voting on the selection of the CUC-RFQ 17-001 bidder or contractor.”

According to S.B. 20-44, “the failure of certain CNMI 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.”

“It is therefore imperative to develop a comprehensive and exhaustive conflict of interest inquiry form to avoid any appearance of impropriety,” the bill added.

The bill will require public officials to disclose any conflict of interest before they vote to approve or execute a contract. Under the bill, these officials must complete a conflict of interest questionnaire with respect to a vendor entering into a contract with a government entity.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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