CNMI Legislature digs further into Guam businessman Bic Sobti's multimillion dollar federal contract
By Johnnie Rosario
Congressman Ed Propst said the Torres administration is not being truthful in officials's claims that they have no idea how Guam businessman Bic Sobti received a $2.5 million sole sourced contract to sell PPEs to the CNMI government.
Mr. Sobti's business - International Royal - isn't even a registered company in the CNMI.
Mr. Propst said a paper trail exists to prove the connections between Gov. Ralph Torres and Mr. Sobti, and show who was involved in securing the contract. He implored the members of the CNMI House of Representatives to keep digging, because the truth is bound to come to light.
Here is the transcription of the major part of Mr. Propst's speech:
There is confusion as to who even came up with a $2.5 million, or brought over a $2.5 million, contract from a company named Royal Bics that sells fashion uniforms, tailors, and shoes. And nobody wants to acknowledge who came up with it. How did a company from Guam that’s never done business in Saipan, that doesn’t have a business license come into the island, put in a quote and know what to put in for over $2.5 million? And no one wants to acknowledge and say “oh, I approached that company” or it was so and so’s idea!
We’re still confused! In fact, it is important that this body, which this special committee which I am a member of, would call everybody in, maybe even the division chief. Find out who signed, who did the purchase requisition on this; to find out the answer that we need.
Because as you saw yesterday, when the CHCC CEO Esther Muna was here, she just simply walked over and handed over one of the quotes from Royal Bics and one from MedPharm and I asked her, I said ‘CEO is, if you look at this’ - and I pointed out some of the discrepancies on it - ‘you know, in your professional opinion as a CEO who’s seen so many contracts and quotes and invoices and other things: What do you think of this?’ And I pointed out some of things that are so critical which there is no description on or as to what was actually ordered.
The sizes of hand sanitizer or antibacterial soap or types; there is so many things that are missing. And their CFO is behind her when I was asking her those questions. And she said “As far as I can remember that, I would have never signed it; actually it would have never made it to my desk because the CFO would have never even allowed me to sign this.” He would have stopped it before it even got to her.
I talked with her after and she has turned down many quotes, this one is very concerning. And I say this because we ordered over $2.5 million from a vendor we never did business with from out of Guam without even giving local vendors the opportunity in a pandemic in a time when local vendors and wholesalers and companies are struggling to survive.
We saw the newspaper report that what - 50 percent - over 50 percent of small businesses are at a shutdown are at a reduced hours and are suffering and yet we couldn’t give an opportunity - a piece of a $2.5 million pie to local companies. Are you serious? This is an insult because even with the committee - even with the penalty of perjury - I believe we are still not getting to the truth!
I do not believe that nobody knows who, how Royal Bics or other contracts came about. But it is up to this body, the special committee under the leadership of Speaker Attao and chairman Ralph Yumul and the members to dig deep and find out.
‘Cause there’s something behind this and I am very confused because even, even when I’ve heard that MedPharm is over priced, when you look at simple things like price per box Nitro gloves of gloves - a box one Royal Bics was charging $23 ($22.95) and then you have MedPharm charging $8. And the quotes were four days apart, so its not like they were getting it at a time when it was critical.
But how did no one though the whole process of the task force and everybody involved not see something so glaringly obvious. On the first time I looked at it, I said, ‘This is seriously weird. This got problems.’ And I don’t even deal with wholesaling or anything. I’m just a regular guy. And I’m sure if you guys looked at it, you would have seen the same thing.
It doesn’t take a business professional, or a CEO, or a CFO to see huge discrepancies in this. It just takes common sense and care. And I ask and implore the special committees to continue to do the work despite the criticisms, despite the politics, because we must continue to do the work of the people.