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Finance: No more first-class travels

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ALL premium-class travel authorizations will be returned immediately to the requesting agencies, the Department of Finance said in a memorandum to departments and agencies.

This is the response of Finance to the Office of the Public Auditor’s Report on the government travel policy posted on the OPA website  Monday.

According to the report, the CNMI government has been spending public funds on first-class or business-class travels over the last four years, adding that Finance did not develop and implement a uniform travel policy by regulation as required by law.

In his response to OPA, Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig  said his department agrees with the OPA finding that policies on airfare restriction “are vague or not enforced.”

Atalig said until uniform travel policies and regulations are promulgated, the travel section staff of Finance and key management personnel of the departments have been notified that all travel authorizations for premium-class travel will be returned immediately to the department and agencies, requesting it.

Atalig said Finance also agrees with the OPA finding that a uniform policy on government travel does not exist.

OPA, in its report, recommended that a uniform travel policy be adopted by regulation to restrict the purchase of first-class, business-class, or any other premium-class designation as required by law.

OPA also recommended training and guidance on per diem calculation.

In addition, OPA recommended that lawmakers review the current travel laws and address any conflicts over official government travel.

According to Atalig, executive branch agencies, the governor’s office and key staff of Finance comprised a steering committee that convened in 2017 to develop uniform travel regulations.

He said the committee in  2018 drafted regulations that were reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office, but due to “technological obstacles” Finance was unable to formally promulgate the regulations at that time.

Atalig said based on OPA recommendations, additional changes were incorporated to the proposed regulations to reduce the variances in per diem rates and provide fair and equitable treatment of all government employees.

He said the regulations are under final review at  Finance, and will be forwarded to the AG’s office for final review and promulgation.

Atalig said Finance anticipates that these travel policies will be effective no later than Oct. 1, 2020 or the start of fiscal year 2021.

 

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