By Troy Torres
Public Auditor Benjamin J.F. Cruz said his office chose to focus on four agencies's hiring and pay practices of its top officials because of the detail needed in case the attorney general needs to bring anyone to justice for crimes the audit brings to light.
Such is the case with the performance audit the Office of Public Accountability released last week that detailed the evidence of the illegal hiring and several illegal retroactive pay raises former seaport general manager Joanne Brown received.
The seaport was one of four agencies chosen by the OPA and the Attorney General's Office for a joint investigation into hiring and pay raise practices of the autonomous agencies of the government. The first audit, which coupled the Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority led to AG action that resulted in the payback of salary increases OPA said were illegally given.
"OPA takes extraordinary measures with every audit issued. Every word and number in our audits must be supported with evidence. We have a quality control reviewer, independent of the audit, come in and scrutinize the audit to ensure all the evidence is supported and no stone is left unturned," Mr. Cruz said.
The public auditor was responding to criticism he received from the editors of the Guam Daily Post, who were defensive of Ms. Brown, and said Mr. Cruz should instead have conducted a broad audit of all the autonomous agencies. The Post criticized the OPA and AGO's decision to focus on the agencies that had the strongest evidence of impropriety.
As Mr. Cruz pointed out in his response, it was just January of this year, when the Post congratulated the OPA on this audit series with the award for second-best story of 2019.
He says the Post's new position that a broad audit should be done, "does a disservice to each respective agency as their issues with the Open Government Law may be similar, their circumstances are not. An auditor’s responsibility is to do an independent examination and assess whether the entity is achieving economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the use of those resources."
But perhaps the most invigorating portion of his response - the part that foretells what is to come in the case of the Brown audit - is at the end of his statement:
"To put it simply, the devil is in the details and further prosecutorial action from the OAG, if necessary, would require each circumstance to be outlined." - Cruz regarding the strength of his audit on Joanne Brown's illegal hiring and pay raises