By Joyce McClure
Yap Gov. Charles S. Chieng is seeking the repeal of a public law that raised the national government’s allotment from the Compact of Free Association funds and centralized the management of state projects.
Public Law 23-30 increased the national share of COFA to 10 percent, or $13 million, subsequently decreasing state revenue by $2.8 million. It was introduced as Bill 23-23, which was vetoed by President Wesley Simina but became law when the FSM Congress overrode his veto.
Prior to Chieng’s call for the law’s repeal in his first state of the state speech on Jan. 15, Simina actually pushed for the same action.
During his meeting with the Committee to Wait on the President on the opening day of the 23rd FSM Congress’s third regular session on Jan. 10, Simina raised several priority bills that he has previously submitted to the FSM Congress.
At least two bills would address Chieng’s concerns.
The first bill would modify the distribution formula of compact funds, reverting the national government’s share to 8 percent as agreed upon by the Chief Executive Council and presiding officers during the nationwide chief executive conference held last September in Yap.
Chieng reported that among the resolutions discussed was the COFA distribution between the four states and the national government. The national share ran from 4 percent to 12 percent and was finally settled on at 8 percent, or $11.16 million.
The states’ cuts were determined to be adequate based on the “spike of the 50 percent reduction” for the national government from national fishing license fees that will now be distributed to the states based on constitutional amendment.
“Nevertheless,” Chieng continued, “on July 25th and to the surprise of many,” the chairman of the ways and means committee, one of Yap’s representatives to the FSM congress, introduced Bill 23-23 that increased the national share of COFA to 10 percent, or $13 million, thereby decreasing state revenue by $2.8 million.
The other part of P.L. 23-30 that Simina discussed with the Committee to Wait would “decentralize the management of Infrastructure Sector Grants from the national government and restore this responsibility to the state governments’ respective Project Management Offices.”
P.L 23-30 transferred project management from the states to the national government. Chieng said this provision has created “unnecessary problems of the laws, quality controls, inspections and various other factors for the state projects resulting from the distant location between management and project sites.”
For Yap, Chuuk and Kosrae where projects are located, “it can be extremely difficult if not impossible” with “management on one side of the globe while the project side is on the other," Chieng said.
As a result of “all of this chaos, one engineer resigned from the Yap office. while remaining personnel are still on Yap state payroll,” Chieng reported.
It has “already passed additional challenges and negative impact on the Yap state vertical and horizontal priority infrastructure projects.”
“Therefore, on behalf of the states, I am recommending that Yap’s delegation to FSM Congress reverse the effect of Public Law #23-30 by way of repeal for the maintenance of prior agreement,” since they proposed the bill in the first place, Chieng said.
He also urged the Yap state representatives to Congress to work closely with Yap state government “to synchronize development in the state master plan with priority projects to maximize efficiency in major infrastructure projects and implementation.”
Citing “communication, transportation, food, water, medical projects along with conservation of natural resources and traditions” as the top priorities of his administration, Chieng recommended a “united and concerted effort from the local, state, national and international community to shift gear to a higher level in addressing these priorities.”
Chieng delivered his first state of the state address to the Yap State Legislature, noting that governmental performance “is dependent on the functions, actions, or lack thereof, of all of the parts combined.”
The address was streamed online for the first time in concert with Chieng’s election promise of transparency that has also brought his cabinet meetings and the legislature’s public sessions to the public through live streaming.