Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Accounting for Beautify CNMI

Glen Hunter left a comment on today's article in the Marianas Variety asking about Beautify CNMI's expenditures.
Does anyone have an official accounting of the funds received by Beautify CNMI? I understand it is just a coalition but is someone (a treasurer perhaps) in charge of managing the funds and keeping track of them. Can any reports of this nature be made available to the public?

The mayor at the moment is coming under harsh criticism (perhaps justifiably) from members of the community in regards to fiscal matters. I think Beautify CNMI is doing a commendable job and perhaps the Mayor's Office can one day do more commendable jobs too but both need to be transparent in regards to financial data.

Can a member of Beautify CNMI furnish the public with a list of all donations made and all expenses incurred and a what funds are still available? With $12,000 from MVA, $1000 form legislator's funds and more from private entities I surely hope these reports exist.
Our house is in order, so I responded with:
This is Angelo Villagomez.

Give me an email address and I'll send you the financial reports. I am easy to get a hold of via my blog or on facebook or you can call me.
Since the anonymous comment was on the Marianas Variety website and there was nobody else to respond to, I contacted the Variety:
Somebody left a comment in today's online paper asking for our financial reports. Attached is the financial report for the last island wide cleanup. I'm going to have to dig up my files for the other ones.

Beautify CNMI is not an incorporated 501(c)3. When people make donations they make them to coalition partners like PAWS, MINA, or Marianas RC&D, which are tax-exempt corporations. In the case of the MVA and Legislature donations, we do not accept money. They pay for the supplies and then turn them over to us. That is what the attached MVA report shows. MVA paid for a purchase order at these businesses and we picked up the supplies and left them at DEQ for dispersal to volunteers.

I have not finished the financial report for the Bridge Capital donation. I will do it this afternoon and send it to you. In the case of that donation, the money went to PAWS and they purchased the supplies for us.

We have purposely not incorporated Beautify CNMI because we want it to stay a loose coalition. We don't want to get bogged down in bureaucracy. Our focus is good coordination with limited resources.

The Variety followed up with an email asking a few questions. The questions and my answers are as follows:
1. How well does Beautify CNMI spend funds given to them?

I think the answer to this can be seen in the great events we put on every month. This year we had an island wide cleanup, a boonie dog show, a cleanup during the liberation day parade, a tree planting at Laolao Bay, and cleanups nearly every weekend. Later this month we'll have another CNMI wide cleanup with the International Coastal Cleanup Day and the bumper sticker and slogan contest.

2. Does Beautify CNMI need continuous donations to put their projects to action?

We rely heavily on strong coordination between government, business, and the community. Sometimes this means somebody donating funds to purchase supplies such as gloves, bags, or t-shirts, but most often it is about taking existing resources from different entities and using them to put together a project or event. For example, the recent tree planting at Laolao depended on expertise and supplies from DEQ, CRMO, Forestry, the community at large and volunteer labor from those same government agencies, community members, some of the political campaigns, and other Beautify CNMI partners.

Beautify CNMI is a lot like the other task forces on the island that are formed to tackle problems; we just happen to be a very active task force, if you will.

3. How important is properly expending funds to the organization since it relies on grants and donations?

Beautify CNMI has never had a grant, but our partners have had grants and the coalition as a whole has helped the individual partners carry out their respective missions. If you look at the total amount of money that we've had over the four years of our existence it would be hard to say that we haven't properly expending our funds. We do things affordably and rely on volunteer labor and expertise whenever we can.

People often ask us what our budget is and they are surprised when I tell them that we don't have one. All of our donations are in-kind. When a donation is in cash, it goes to one of the partner non-profits and they deal with the accounting of funds, turning back any supplies or services to the coalition as a whole.

4. What is your message to the people who may question the expenditures of the organization? To the donors?

The donors can see the work that we do. MVA gave us an in-kind donation of $1500 for the island wide cleanup in April and we gave them a report with receipts and pictures of volunteers. They were very satisfied with our results. Over 4000 volunteers participated in that event and we removed over 27,000 lbs of trash. That's about 5 cents per lb of trash or 37 cents per volunteer. Donors see those kind of results and are more than happy to help us when we ask for help.

I don't think anyone really questions our expenditures. The government agencies that participate are all subject to the Open Government Act and most of the private organizations are more than happy to share how they are spending their money. All somebody had to do was ask. Somebody questioned it on an online forum using an anonymous moniker and I immediately sent copies of our financial reports to the editors and reporters at this paper.
There are a few follow questions on the Marianas Variety website, but I think I've covered all of the concerns in these emails.

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