Igisomar: NMI doing a good job in spending federal highway funds

SENATOR Sixto K. Igisomar said contrary to what has been reported to U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Sablan, the commonwealth has done a good job in spending federal highway funds.

Sablan has said at the end of fiscal 2017, the Federal Highway Administration reported  that the CNMI’s unobligated balance of funds was 48 percent or  $5,818,993 million.

Senate President Arnold Palacios said he asked Igisomar, the chairman of the transportation committee, to look into the matter.

Sixto K. IgisomarSixto K. Igisomar

Igisomar, for his part, said he requested information from the Department of Public Works and scheduled a meeting with its Technical Services Division or TSD and the administrator of the federal highway funds.

Palacios said they learned that the unobligated federal highway funds for the CNMI identified by Sablan were an accumulation of various carryover or leftover funds from various completed highway projects from previous years.

Palacios said they also learned that the annual federal allocation of $3.8 million had been entirely obligated each year for the past four years.

TSD assured the Senate that the pending balance of $5.8 million will be obligated, Palacios added.

He said the Federal Highway Administration advisor from Hawaii will arrive on Saipan in April to meet with the TSD director and discuss the proposal to obligate the  $5.8 million.

Palacios said TSD and the FHwA have indicated that it may be very difficult to increase the CNMI’s percentage allocation of federal highway funds due to its small population and limited land mass for highways.

Palacios said the U.S. Congress can increase the highway fund allocations to all territories including the CNMI, which currently receives 10 percent allocation.

Igisomar said they will ask Sablan to increase the annual allocation for the territories.

Based on the information provided by DPW, Igisomar said the drawdown rate has been higher and closer to 100 percent within the past four to six years contrary to the 48 percent mentioned by Sablan in his media release on Wednesday.

Igisomar said the media release was “disturbing” and “hurt” the feelings of the “hardworking staff of TSD.”

He said when he visited the TSD office “to follow up on data previously received, what I encountered was an office with hardworking employees feeling defeated and injured by the [news] article [Wednesday] morning. I assured them that I will  seek clarification.”

He added that compared to other territories, the CNMI has done a good job in maintaining an exemplary inactive rate of 0.1 percent and for being responsible and accountable in its federal fund expenditures.

“There is more to this than meets the eye. And I truly thank Kilili for allowing us this opportunity to review  federal highway expenditures,” he said.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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