FSM Secretary of TC&I visits States in conjunction with Congressional Public Hearings
Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services): February 2, 2010 - The Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Communication and Infrastructure, the Honorable Francis I. Itimai, by request of the Chairman of the Congressional Committee on Transportation & Communication (T&C) and approval of the President, travelled to Yap, Chuuk, and Kosrae from December 12-23, 2010, to join the FSM Chairman of the Transportation & Communication (T&C) Congressional Committee, the Honorable Dion Neth, to attend public hearings on pending bills with the FSM Congress on transportation and communications and also to assist in clarifying issues concerning the work of the National Project Management Unit (PMU) in the oversight hearings conducted by the Committee in all three States.
In Yap, the FSM delegation was joined by a member of the Committee, the Hon. Joseph Urusemal, who is the Chairman of the Committee on Education, when the Committee had its public and oversight hearings with the leadership of the State of Yap and other members of the Yap communities. The public hearings were focused on the Caroline Island Air (CIA) Congressional Bill No. 16-68, which is to amend the current law that establishes the Airline by changing the name of the Corporation and the composition of the Board of Directors, and Congressional Bill No. 16-26 and 16-08. C.B. No. 16-26 calls for an amendment to FSMC Title 21 to relevant sections on appointment and composition of the Board of Directors of the FSM Telecommunications Corporation (FSMTC) while C.B. No. 16-08 calls for an amendment of the same Title to enact a new Chapter 3 to establish the National Government's regulatory power over telecommunications operation in the FSM and amend certain sections of the current law to ensure the transparency, financial accountability and reporting, and fair procurement practices of the FSMTC.
On C.B. No. 16-68, the current law stipulates that each member of the CIA Board of Directors is to be appointed by the President without going through the confirmation process of the FSM Congress. The pending bill proposes to change that to have all Board members subject to the confirmation of the National Congress. Through the public hearing, it appears that the leadership of Yap's position on this bill is to leave it up to the National Government since it is in the position to know more on the domestic airline business, but the leadership stressed that the operations of the airline must be improved and expanded. The leadership also made the suggestion for the airfields in the outer islands to be refurbished and extended to accommodate a bigger domestic flight for inter-island commerce and transportation as well as for medivac purposes.
On the bills concerning FSMTC, most especially C.B No. 16-08, the leadership of Yap was reminded by Secretary Itimai that it had already made its collective position in July of last year during the meeting with the FSM delegation composed of the Secretary of TC&I and all his key staff and also during the initial joint Congressional Committees public hearings on them. (Committees on External Affairs, T&C and Education). The Yap Leadership's position then was that the State fully supported the bill and requested the FSM Congress to expeditiously take appropriate action on the bill for passage.
While in Chuuk, the Chairman of the T&C Committee decided to only conduct oversight hearings on the current activities of the PMU and on the progress of the states infrastructure development projects as funded under the Amended Compact. Mr. Marcelino Actouka, the new Program Manager for the National Project Management Unit (PMU) joined the FSM delegation in Chuuk. In the public hearings, issues on the work of the PMU and the infrastructure development projects for the State of Chuuk were raised by both the Chuuk State Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch, and ample clarifications were provided by the T&C Committee and the two National Executive Branch representatives (Secretary of TC&I and the Program Manager of PMU). On the many concerns of the State officials, the Committee took full note and the National Executive Branch representatives were tasked to find solutions collectively with the state counterparts.
In Kosrae, the same oversight hearings on PMU activities and the progress of the infrastructure projects were conducted with the Executive and Legislative Branches separately. The joint National delegation was joined in Kosrae by the FSM Congress Staff Attorney, Mr. Alik Jackson, and the Honorable at-large Senator Claude Philip from the State of Kosrae, who is a member of the T&C Committee. During the public hearings, the state officials sought clarifications on the status of their prioritized projects that were submitted for funding under the CISG (Compact Infrastructure Sector Grant) as well as the status of their on-going projects. The state officials raised concerns on how slow the implementation of infrastructure projects in the state is going. The National Government representatives explained that the PMU is now going through a re-structuring of staff and will be working closely with the states in exploring all possible ways to expedite implementation of projects, which is the current policy of President Mori.
This joint FSM Congress and Executive Branch State visit is a clear manifestation of how the two Branches are collaborating to find possible ways to implement projects that can be funded from the over $200 million dollars worth of CISG sitting idle with the US funding Agency (USDOI). The joint delegation underscored to the states that the states also have to do their part in seeing to it that all requirements of the Amended Compact, such as acquiring of land easements and the order of priority for projects to address education, health and social welfare of the people of the FSM, must be done to expedite these projects.
Common concerns raised by all three states include lack of communication from the National Government, particularly the PMU and other Departments concerned with the progress of the infrastructure projects, and a need for clear understanding on the procedures of moving the projects forward, such as the design work and task ordering procedures. All three states suggested that when the PMU is able to establish sub-offices and professional staff in the states, they should be physically located in the most relevant offices, such as the Office of Planning and the Department of Public Works, to allow them to work closely with the state counterparts and for the state counterparts to be fully integrated with the work required to move these projects forward.
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