DOA: Using pandemic funds for new financial management system ‘justified’

Department of Administration director Edward Birn (PNC photo)

From unemployment benefits to rental relief to medical care, the island has greatly benefited from pandemic-related federal funding.

But some say that using pandemic funding to buy a new financial management system for GovGuam may be a misuse of federal money.

Vice-Speaker Tina Muna Barnes met with Department of Administration director Edward Birn to inquire into the procurement of a new financial management system.

She was inquiring as to why the new system…was being sought through an emergency procurement based on two executive orders related to the pandemic.

Senator Frank Blas Jr. also questioned the procurement, saying that although a new system is needed it’s a stretch to connect that need to the pandemic.

But Birn told Newstalk K57’s Patti Arroyo Wednesday morning that a new financial system is needed because the aging AS400 system can’t keep up with what’s demanded of it.

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As to the question of whether pandemic-related federal money is an appropriate funding source, Birn said that using those funds is justified because many of the new requirements imposed on the system came as a result of federal pandemic programs.

“We have to account to the federal authorities as well for the use of this money. And if it takes a long time, for whatever reason, to get information out of it … into it and out of it … then the federal authorities might think we’re not being careful with our funds. We just want to be able to report things seamlessly and not have to force things through the system which is basically what we’re doing now,” Birn said.

He added that since the purchase of a new system can be tied to the pandemic, it’s best to act now to secure one.

“I don’t recall, certainly within the time that I’ve been in this position, the Legislature has never indicated that they would provide funds to replace this system. It’s certainly a big chunk to bite, but since we all rely upon information coming out of this system…you know I hear a lot of the word transparency used a lot…well you can only be transparent if you can get a hold of the information,” Birn said.

He added that the Department of Administration has already sent a Request For Proposal for a new system to the Guam Attorney General’s office for approval.