SAIPAN — The chair of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations plans to call at least 15 witnesses, including CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios, to testify before the panel.

Rep. Celina Babauta's committee is looking into the governor's expenditures.

She said the witnesses will include an individual in California and a couple living in Hawaii.

Witnesses will be called in by next week, she said, adding that the witness list is growing.

"We are issuing a lot of letters. ... We're giving them more than five days, actually, because we would like to have it (all set) by Monday," Babauta said.

Once the hearing starts, the committee expects to call in three witnesses a day, she added.

As for off-island witnesses, Babauta said, if they do not comply, her committee will have to send the House sergeant-at-arms to fetch these witnesses, which means more expenses.

Babauta also said that she still needs to sit down with the other committee members to discuss how to proceed with off-island witnesses.

The committee's other members are Vice Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao and Reps. Vicente Camacho, Richard Lizama, Donald Manglona, Edwin Propst and Tina Sablan. Attao is the committee's lone Republican member.

The committee on June 12 reopened the investigation into Gov. Torres' public expenditures, picking up where the bipartisan CNMI House Special Committee on Fiscal Review of Executive Expenditures left off in the 21st CNMI Legislature.

The Republican members of the committee recommended that the CNMI Office of the Public Auditor look into the documents and testimonies pertaining to the governor's official expenditures that the then-House minority bloc said were questionable.

The then-House minority bloc members – who are now part of the House leadership – issued their own report.

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