Cruz: OPA report on use of COVID relief funds was positive

377
According to Public Auditor and OPA head Benjamin J.F. Cruz, it's all much ado about nothing. The OPA issued a report on Monday that says GovGuam lacked specific processes and control activities for the funds.

Shortcomings in GovGuam’s handling of COVID-19 relief funds have been in the headlines lately after a report by the Office of Public Accountability was released.

But according to Public Auditor and OPA head Benjamin J.F. Cruz, it’s all much ado about nothing.

The OPA issued a report on Monday that says GovGuam lacked specific processes and control activities for the funds.

It also says certain approved budget amounts lacked pertinent information and exceeded agencies’ requests and some approved budget requests were questionable.

But the report also said GovGuam generally followed the policies and procedures provided by the federal government.

Cruz told PNC News that he thought the report was positive. He says the intent of the OPA was simply to fulfill its legal mandate.

Loading the player...

As part of the mandate, OPA’s mission was simply to review the budget that had been submitted to the Legislature in May and make recommendations.

He says OPA understands the challenges GovGuam faces in administering the program.

Cruz also pointed out that the OPA’s findings are similar to the findings of a similar report by the Hawaii State Auditor.

He says part of the reason for the buzz generated by the OPA’s report is the use of the word “audit.”

Cruz says the Department of the Interior uses the term “flash report” and using the word “audit” may have suggested more gravity to the OPA report’s findings than was warranted.

“Our office figured..call it an audit. But maybe it should be renamed. But it’s just we are very clear about what our mission was — and it wasn’t to “audit” disbursements. It was just to look at the plan and whether or not there could have been preventative actions taken or procedures..internal procedures provided to make sure that everything was properly documented and all the expenditures were properly disbursed and provided for,” Cruz said.

Cruz says the OPA has already begun work on the second mandatory review of GovGuam’s handling of the coronavirus relief funds.

That report will likely be complete in four to six months.

##