OPA wants mayors taken out of Liberation activities as procurement violations continue

Pia Mia was one of the biggest entertainment draws of the 75th Liberation celebration. This year, the parade will be done virtually. (PNC file photo)

The Office of Public Accountability wants to replace the Mayors Council with a new separate entity that will manage Guam liberation activities after its latest audit of the 75th Guam Island Fair and Liberation Day Carnival Procurement Trash unearthed a number of issues.

This latest audit released Sunday found that the Guam Island Fair Committee did not comply with Guam procurement rules and regulations for purchases of major goods and services for the 75th Liberation Day celebration held last year.

Specifically, the audit found no procurement records for purchases totaling $234,000 and improper procurement methods were used for $66,000 worth of purchases. These resulted in total questioned costs of $300,000.

Non‐compliance with Guam procurement has been a repeat finding in prior audits of the Liberation fair. OPA attributes this to the Mayors’ Council of Guam’s ineffective oversight.

“MCOG believes that following Guam Procurement is not practical due to factors including a limited timeframe in planning and executing the fair and lack of annual government appropriations. Though MCOG may find it impractical to follow Guam Procurement, their adherence ensures accountability and transparency of the fair’s activities,” OPA stated.

The audit pointed out that the mayors themselves admitted that they lacked the capability and resources to effectively perform their mandate and that they conveyed their desire to no longer be the fair’s oversight entity.

The law also mandates an OPA representative to be appointed as a committee member. However, since OPA is mandated to audit the Liberation fair, it decided to not participate as a committee member due to the “inherent impairment of audit objectivity.”

To address the audit’s findings, OPA recommended that the Legislature amend the law to:
(1) remove MCOG and replace them with an entity equipped with the resources and capability to provide effective oversight and assume full responsibilities of the fair; and

(2) remove OPA as a committee member.

“Although I was recused from participating in the audit, I want to recognize and acknowledge OPA’s Accountability Auditors’ work in completing this mandated audit. I urge the community leaders and policymakers to engage in effective dialogue and discussions to implement the audit recommendations,” Public Auditor Benjamin J.F. Cruz. said.