Guam – The legality of Guam’s WIC program has been called into question by the Attorney General’s Office. The A.G. believes the program is in violation of Guam’s procurement laws. Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz then introduced legislation in an attempt to fix the problem however Jones&Guerrero attorney John Brown has voiced some concerns with this legislation.
“A bill was introduced which I think just unleashes a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences,” said Brown in reaction to Vice-Speaker Cruz’s bill 430. The proposed measure essentially makes legal something that Guams’ WIC program has already been doing which is purchasing things like infant formula through a cooperative or joinder method. The idea behind cooperative or joinder purchasing is to allow a small island like Guam to combine it’s purchasing power with other places in order to get a better price.
“We’ve also found that this idea of cooperative purchasing could be a saving for a lot of agencies in the government of Guam and so I’d like to see this move forward but it is a necessary provision and we’ll try to get it passed as soon as possible,” said Vice-Speaker BJ Cruz.
Brown on the other hand says that the problem with the bill is that it gives too much blanket authority to GovGuam Agencies allowing them to purchase things by joining other procurement contracts anywhere in the nation. “My main concern with this law is that there is no accountability there is no reference to getting the lowest price it’s just the whole point is any agency can go get whatever they want off of any other contract that exists and I just think that’s way to much discretion to be allowed to anybody,” said Brown.
Brown believes that there are other ways to solve this issue for example authorizing only the Department of Public Health to enter into these types of joinder agreements just for WIC. Brown thinks that cooperative or joinder buying has benefits but any legislation enabling it must be much more comprehensive. “Let’s put this hysteria about WIC behind us and move on then to the more interesting question of how we might actually use cooperative buying in cases where the federal government actually doesn’t require it. It has some potential for us but we have to be very careful about it,”
Vice-Speaker Cruz on the other hand shared a letter from the USDA with PNC in which the USDA agrees with the attorney general and recommends the passage of the bill. “That’s what we’re trying to do is to have a specific authorization to allow government agencies to try to procure the best possible deal for the people of Guam so we can save money which will eventually be spread around the community anyway any money that we save in government will be spent someplace else in personnel or in some other thing that’s gonna be purchased locally,” said Vice-Speaker Cruz.
Vice-Speaker Cruz says that if the legislation isn’t passed Guam won’t be able to participate in the cooperative spending contract that it currently has and thus will have to spend more money to purchase things like baby formula which could result in hundred of women not getting assistance.