Auditor to GEDA: more cash for health, education, safety

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L-R: Public Auditor BJ Cruz and Guam Economic Development Authority Administrator Jay Rojas.

Guam – A little less marketing and a little more community assistance. That’s the word from Public Auditor BJ Cruz to the Guam Economic Development Authority on the allocation of community cash contributions from mandatory monies paid by qualifying certificate holders. The auditor released his findings in a report published Monday.

GEDA’s qualifying certificates program gives investors tax breaks in exchange for building and operating development projects—such as tour and travel, insurance, and healthcare concerns—right here on Guam. But there are some strings attached.

Notably, the auditor found that 14 of the 20 active QC’s administered by GEDA between Fiscal Years ’13 through ’17 required community cash contributions totaling $3.4 million.

Eight of these QC’s were, indeed, required to allocate their cash contributions to economic development and marketing. But according to the Office of Public Accountability’s report on the matter, “…four QC’s specified allocation to various purposes, in addition to economic development and marketing.

“However, since the QC’s were written in a way that gave GEDA flexibility to determine the amount, timing, and grantee, GEDA allocated 73 percent, or $2.2 million of the remaining community cash contribution to its own marketing and economic development operations.”

That left less than a million dollars to be divided unevenly amongst healthcare, public safety, and higher education and cultural preservation — with more than $150,000 yet to be allocated.

Henceforth, Cruz’ Office of Public Accountability recommends that GEDA consider advertising the availability of community cash contributions, so eligible agencies might have a more equitable chance of benefiting from the QC payouts.

Meantime, Public Auditor Cruz commends GEDA for responding to the Accountability Office’s initial concerns by advertising available funding for two QC’s in November of this year.

As PNC reported a month and a half ago, the GEDA board adopted guidelines to administer the funds it holds in trust for community contributions of Qualifying Certificate beneficiaries.

For example, Guam Regional Medical City’s $1 million in annual contributions must be spent evenly on (1) healthcare, (2) public safety, (3) medical industry and small business development, and (4) higher education and cultural preservation at allocations of $250,000 each. The Tsubaki Tower hotel project’s annual $137,000 contribution must be divided similarly.

“GEDA did not previously have guidelines for community contributions,” GEDA Administrator Jay Rojas said in November.

“These are the first community contributions guidelines adopted by the board. Contribution requests were vetted/awarded on a first come, first served basis and presented to the board.”

As PNC reported Monday, Farm to Table Guam co-founder and Director Melanie Mendiola has been selected by Governor-Elect Lou Leon Guerrero to head up the Guam Economic Development Authority starting this month.