February 2, 2012
For every CW permit that a CNMI employer completes, the CNMI gets $150 to be applied as an education funding fee. Even though the majority of the foreign workers are still waiting for their CW permits, the U.S. government has turned over $1.6 million in education fees to the CNMI government. That amount represents 10,666 foreign workers whose employers have applied for CW visas. USCIS reported that as of December 9, 2011, 11,019 CW petitions were filed.
The CNRA created the education fee with the intent that U.S. citizens could be trained to develop the skills needed to replace the foreign workers that make up 90% of the CNMI's private workforce. My guess is that a portion of the funds will be used for educational purposes. In fact, the 2012 budget allocated $500,000 of the funds to go to the Public School System. I would hope that the remaining funds would go to college or technical training programs. Yet, knowing the corrupt CNMI government, I would not be surprised if the money was thrown into the CNMI shell game pot where money is shifted from one government account to another to cover deficits.
The fledgling CHC is being inspected by a team from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In August 2010 the CNMI's Medicare funding was threatened for noncompliance. Noncompliance was found in "six areas including the governing body, quality assessment and performance improvement, medical staff, nursing services, radiologic services, and infection control," according to the Saipan Tribune.
In 2010 CHC was warned that failure to correct noncomplying areas could result in loss of accreditation.
The Saipan Tribune reported:
Medicare first received complaints about the quality of the hospital's services in 2010, prompting the agency to investigate. It uncovered serious deficiencies and threatened to terminate its “provider agreement” with the hospital if corrective actions are not taken. These corrective action plans were enumerated by CHC in its report. This surprise visit is part of a Medicare requirement that validates the content of the plans of corrections.Just last week Governor Fitial took $261 thousand from Medicare funds to be used for the hospital's $800,000 bi-weekly payroll. The governor also recently appointed Ester Muna, the former financial officer of the hospital (the hospital with $24 million in collectibles), to oversee the Medicaid billing. She will be making decisions as to what spending is allowed and what is not allowed.
The CNMI Emergency Management Center used a federal grant to purchase 14 televisions worth $28,000. The U.S. taxpayers footed $21,000 of the bill and the CNMI government (the one that claims to be broke) spent $7,000 as the required cash match. The televisions range in size from 32 inches to 72 inches and in price from $648 to $3,998. I have no clue if that is a good price since I haven't bought a television since 1999.
I am not sure why the Emergency Management Office needs these televisions or where they will be placed. Perhaps they will be disbursed between offices on Saipan, Tinian and Rota, or as some have expressed, they may end up in some folk's living rooms. It is doubtful that anyone will ever know since the governor and AG refuse to disclose information under the Open Government Act.
The Marianas Variety's story about the purchase is deservingly snarky, as are the comments. In part:
EMO’s new Capital Hill office must have wall-space to spare in order to mount the four, 70-inch TVs, let alone the 10 other sets over 35-inches.The Emergency Management Office may want to consider using some of their remaining grant funds to upgrade their horrible, outdated website.
While no one would argue the need to prepare for natural disasters, the number and huge size of the televisions seems overkill in the best tradition of bureaucratic waste of taxpayer money.
Hard-working taxpayers can rest easy at night knowing that if or until, a big disaster hits, the Department of Homeland Security and EMO staff can comfortably watch the Super Bowl and their favorite movies.