August 09, 2010

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

Palkir, Pohnpei, FSM- During the last regular session of the FSM Congress, Senator Joseph Urusemal, chairman of the Committee on Health and Education registered strong dissatisfaction with the actions of the Department of Education (DOE). His committee scheduled a bud -get and oversight meeting for the department but no one showed up. He said that after the meeting was rescheduled witnesses from the department did turn up but he said that they were unprepared to discuss the issues at hand including the fact that several DOE employees had not been aid since March.

Last week Speaker Figir called a special session of Congress specifically to deal with DOE 's budget shortfall. The session was to have lasted for three days but was extended for an additional three days during which time DOE officials and

Senators worked out their differences and Congress passed a bill that will carry DOE at least until Congress ' next session in September. Essentially, DOE was out of budget more than two months before the end of the 2010 fiscal year which ends n September 0, 010.

Congress appropriated $74,874 to resolve the crisis.$43,000 will be used for over -due payroll for employees "improperly " laid off from the T-33 program, and continuing salaries for other DOE employees who otherwise would not have been paid for the rest of the fiscal year. That amount of money isn't enough to cover payroll needs for the entire remainder of the fiscal year. Congress will be meeting again for its regular session in September at which time they will revisit the matter.

$31,874 will be used to cover final obligations for the T-3 programs including outs standing utilities bills owed to Pohnpei Utilities corporation.

Chairman Urusemal said that he agreed with DOE representatives who said that to sanction a whole department because of the actions of one or two people who won 't work within the rules and laws of this nation isn't fair to the people who are actually doing the work of the department. "It has been said that 'to err is human but to forgive is divine.' I thought of a new one 'To compromise s noble. '"

Both the Department of Education and Congress did compromise on the matter. DOE had asked for $94,394.Congress and DOE settled on the $74,000 figure in a last minute meeting before the second and final reading of the bill was passed. Chairman Urusemal offered an oral amendment to the bill to make those final changes.

Senator Peter Sitan offered a written amendment to the bill that removed the requirement that DOE reimburse the FSM once the Supplemental Education Grant for fiscal year 2006 becomes avail able.

Senator Peter Christian said that Congress is constantly saddled with having to fix or correct problems of the administration that they didn't create and that Congress is also constantly blamed for those problems. "I accept responsibility for the problems we did create and am committed to correcting those problems but we never caused these problems," he said. "Maybe in the future we should be more direct about why the executive should not have that money but who does that hurt,"" he asked?

Of the ten or more spectators from the DOE in the gallery observing the proceedings Christian said, "Hopefully the spectators are here to congratulate Congress for doing something good rather than as a vote of 'no confidence in Congress.

Speaker Isaac Figir associated himself with h Senator Christian 's comments.