Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia

Speaker Apologizes

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Congress): January 13, 2003 - Speaker Jack Fritz expressed apologies to members of Congress, leaders of the national, states and municipal governments, traditional and church leaders in the event of the criminal charges filed against him. Fritz said he hope the leaders, as will as all other citizens, do not feel that "I have let you down." He said he has not and will let the case take its toll because he is confident the law will find him free of the charges. Fritz stated during his apologizing statement that people should "forgiving those who trespass against us" as the only way to keep the relationships between one another.

The statements were made during the closing day of the 4th Special Session held January 8-11, 2003 after Congress overridden six measures being vetoed by the president and passed on 2nd and Final Reading few other measures. The vetoed measures were related to the availability of funds. What causes these vetoes by the President and overrides by the Congress were reports by the Department of Finance and Administration, according to discussions made on the floor regarding the measures.

The department first reported to the Congress of fund balances in previous appropriations, but when Congress, during its last regular session, reallocated the use of such funds by amendments to the laws, the department advice the president to disapprove them, because the fund balances were not correct.

Congress has been, for quite a while, insisted that the department come up with accurate reports, especially on funds status and revenue projections. The reports have been inconsistent and subject to discussions during congressional sessions and meetings.

There were nine measures enacted during the 4th Regular Session held October-November 2002 that were either vetoed in their entirety or in parts. These were all, except for one, funds related and vetoed because of conflicting reports.

There were 5 other bills and 3 resolutions approved during the session. These included two major bills, which concern the FSM Social Security and the FSM Employees Health Insurance Plan.

Congress agreed that the National Government Employees' Health Insurance Plan needed improvement. It approved a legislation, C.B. No. 12-79 to remove the Secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration from administering the plan. Congress believes the plan needs a board of directors to oversee and set appropriate regulations to improve the operation of the plan. It also approved changes to the Social Security system to increase the wage base from $3,000 to $5,000 per month, created a new section to permit the president to enter into agreement with a foreign government relating to social security arrangement. This, however, will be subject to congressional approval by resolution. The increase in wage base takes effect October 1, 2003.

In discussing the later measure, members asked the members of the Board of Directors for the Social Security to cut cost of their travel and to keep their meetings within the nation, instead of in Canada or the United States. Also expressed during discussions on the S.S. bill was the need to re activate its radio programs in order to educate the general public on what is going on with the program and make sure all states share the programs.

When Congress discussed the bill that provide funds for the national/state joint law enforcement program, which was brought out for some improvement, members raised disappointment over the way the FSM Department of Justice handles these funds. Members said the funds were provided to supplement what ever amount the states have to enforce the national laws and maintain order and peace in their state. The funds were also provided to the states to show appreciation of the national government to the states for their cooperation in enforcing the requirement of the national laws in their states. But the restrictions placed on the use of the funds have become too restrictive for the states.

Congress, however, would like the department to monitor the use of the money provided under the national/states joint law enforcement program, but not make it difficult for the states to use the fund. The requirement and restrictions were deleted out of the JLEA funds by amendment to the FY 2003 Budget.

Senator Jacob Nena of Kosrae could not attend the 4-day 4th Special Session due to illness.

Senator Peter M. Christian of Pohnpei, Chairman of the Committee on Resources and Development and FSM Chief Negotiator of the Compact between the U.S. and the FSM made a statement regarding his disappointment toward the United State Government for the way it handles the negotiations thus far. The text of that statement would be provided in a separate release when it is available.

For further information on this release, please contact:

Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia
Public Information Office
P.O Box PS-3
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2324/2325
Fax.: (691) 320-5122