OPA: More cost-effective to hire in-house attorneys

According to OPA, 21 GovGuam entities paid $32.6 million to contracted legal firms, seven GovGuam entities spent $43.8 million on government-hired attorneys, and six GovGuam entities spent $5.9 million on government-hired attorneys.

The government of Guam spent $78 million on legal fees and services as disclosed by the Office of Public Accountability in its latest report. Although certain GovGuam entities require special counsel to handle particular cases, OPA recommended that it is more cost-effective to hire in-house attorneys.

OPA’s analysis of the cost of legal services of government agencies included autonomous and semi-autonomous agencies as well as public corporations.

From fiscal year 2013 to 2018, OPA’s analysis found that 21 entities paid $32.6 million to contracted legal firms. The top five entities included the Guam International Airport Authority, Port Authority of Guam, Guam Memorial Hospital Authority, Department of Public Health and Social Services, and Guam Waterworks Authority.

In an interview with K57’s Phill Leon Guerrero, Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz said the full report shows the difference between contracting private attorneys and hiring in-house legal services.

“It really shows that if you can get legal counsel, your own in-house legal counsel, to do your board minutes, do your civil service commission, and do the run-of-the-mill things … your little contracts going in and around the agency … you’ll see how little those agencies spent over the last six years, as opposed to agencies that had private legal counsel contracted at $225 an hour,” Cruz said.

While each GovGuam entity identifies its needs for legal services, OPA recommended that these entities perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it is more feasible to employ government attorneys versus contracting for legal services.