Finance needs more time to comply with Open Government Act request

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THE Department Finance needs more time to provide the documents requested by House members regarding the reimbursements claimed by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres over the past few years.

Friday was the deadline to respond to the Open Government Act request of the House minority bloc for financial records pertaining to, among other things, the governor’s travel allowances and reimbursements.

Also on Friday, the House Committees on Judiciary and Governmental Operations and Ways and Means sent Finance their own joint Open Government Act request for the same documents. Under the law, Finance has until Jan. 6, 2020 to provide the documents.

In an interview, Rep. Tina Sablan said although Finance needs more time, acting Finance Secretary Margaret Bertha C. Torres gave her fellow minority bloc members — Reps. Edmund Villagomez, Donald Manglona, and Richard Lizama — an opportunity to look at some of the documents pulled out from the files on Friday.

Because of the large volume of the documents they have requested, Sablan said Finance asked for an extension of the deadline.

“Acting Secretary Torres briefed us on the actions taken by the department to identify and gather records that are responsive to our request, and we agreed to extend the deadline to January 6,” Sablan said.

They did not obtain copies of any documents on Friday because the acting Finance secretary requested time to review all the records for any personal or otherwise exempt information that might need to be redacted before disclosure.

Any redactions will be accompanied by an explanation citing the specific exemption in the Open Government Act.

In her letter to the minority bloc, acting Finance Secretary Torres said it was difficult to go through files for documents related to specific individuals because records at Finance are not filed by name, but by document numbers.

“While it is possible to go through our files and pull all such documents, this process will need an extensive amount of time given the staffing levels at Finance,” she added.

In its Open Government Act request on Dec. 10, the House minority bloc asked Finance for the records detailing the government’s travel, per diem, and reimbursement policy; any and all records detailing policy on payment for official representation expenses; housing or utilities for government officials, payment for executive security, chauffeur for the governor, lt. governor, first lady, and second lady; payment for travel expenses, per diem, any and other services provided for current or previous first lady and their role as non-government employee; travel expenses for the governor and the first lady from Oct. 1, 2014 to Dec. 10, 2019 and records related to first-class, business-class or any other premium-class travel expenses.

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