VIDEO: OPA Takes GPT to Task After 46% Drop in Building Permit Fees

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Guam – The latest audit released by the Office of Public Accountability on the Guam Preservation Trust [GPT] cites the agency for its “inability to ensure the completeness of the building permit fees collected.” But GPT Administrator Joe Quinata said they don’t collect the building permit fees, DPW does. And he said that’s where the problems are, at DPW.

GPT’s primary source of funding is derived from Building Permit Fees administered by the Department of Public Works. The audit found a 46% drop in permit fees in Fiscal Year 2010. $1.2 million was taken in during FY 2009, but only $627-thousand was collected in FY 2010.

The auditors called this issue a “repeat significant deficiency.”

Read the Highlights of Historic Trust Audit

The Preservation Trust told the auditors the decline was due to “the moratorium placed on commercial and land development applications by the Guam Waterworks Authority.”

But the auditors pointed out that the moratorium was lifted in April of 2009.

GPT Administrator Quinata responds that there is a long lag time before permits are granted and fees are collected. he said already in the first quarter of this fiscal year, they have seen an increase.

But Quinata also emphasised that GPT only gets a check from DOA which receives the building permit fees from DPW. Its DPW that collects the permit fees and keeps the records, which the auditors have found fault with.

Among the concerns about permit fee collections cited in the independent audit conducted by Ernst & Young are:

* there are no numbering systems in place to keep track of the applications or building permits issued

* routing slips, which are documents provided to customers for payment also lack a sequential number system

* dates on receipts and building permits often differ

The auditors state: “It is incumbent on GPT to make more assertive inquiries to DPW when revenues show a significant decrease in building permit fees, most notably the decline from FY 2009 to FY 2010.”

The audit found that the GPT closed the 2010 Fiscal Year with a decline in net assets of $927-thousand compared to an increase of $189K in FY 2009.

“The decline is a result of a decrease in building fees and an increase in grant projects and other operating expenses.”