By Eric Rosario
Where do we even start?
Bic Sobti didn't just sell $2.53 million in PPE to the Commonwealth government at highly-inflated rates, he also was the sole source provider of six old all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to the Department of Public Safety. The company dba through which the emergency contract and transaction occurred is RPM Yamaha, a Guam company with no business license in the CNMI.
Gov. Ralph Torres, Attorney General Edward Manibusan, Secretary of Finance David Atalig, Jr., Commissioner of Public Safety Robert Guerrero, and acting director of Procurement and Supply Francisco Aguon all approved the emergency procurement and contract dated April 23, 2020 giving Mr. Sobti $117,292, one day after he had invoiced the DPS for $110,783.
The amounts of the ATVs and shipping actually total $1,000 more than the amount totaled at the bottom of the April 22 invoice. The amounts for each of the vehicles and shipping on the invoice also differ from the amounts presented in Mr. Sobti's price quotation given to the CNMI government the day before on April 21.
The shipping cost Mr. Sobti originally charged - $4,500 - is highly inflated from the standard shipping fee for the cargo he purportedly moved from Guam to Saipan. That was the amount he quoted the CNMI government. However, on the invoice, the shipping cost went up to $7,889.
While the purpose of the emergency procurement set forth by Mr. Guerrero was for the immediate supply of ATVs, Mr. Sobti's price quote indicates that the two most important ATVs needed by the CNMI government - the Kawasaki Mule 4010 Trans 4x4 would only be available in 60 days from the quote.
Mr. Guerrero included in his justification for procurement an April 21 quotation from JoeTen Motor Company, Inc. showing JoeTen had on hand and was able to sell a brand new 2020 ATV golf cart similar to the Kawasaki Mule for $7,000 cheaper than the RPM Yamaha price from Sobti.
Of the other four ATVs, none of them are up-to-date models - they are all 2019 versions.
According to Mr. Sobti's invoice, he sold a 2019 Wolverine X2 to the CNMI government for $16,998. That ATV's MSRP is only $12,699 for a 2020 model.
He sold two 2019 Grizzly EPS ES for $12,500 each. The MSRP shows it retails for $10,499.
The 2019 Kawasaki Mule he sold (and apparently hasn't even delivered yet) to the CNMI cost the government $23,898. The MSRP for a 2021 model of that ATV is only $10,299.
The accounts document attached to the contract shows two hand written notations. One notation reads "deficit." Underneath that note is Mr. Atalig's signature and his note: "Okay - will transfer expenses to 1680."
The Commonwealth Legislature already is investigating Mr. Sobti's main company - International Royal - for his $2.53 million invoice of PPEs sold at price gouged rates to the CNMI government under emergency sole source procurement. International Royal also does not have a business license in the CNMI.
It is unclear how in the world six ATVs were needed for a public health emergency in the CNMI.