NEWS: Lee begins anti-corruption probe



By Troy Torres

troy@kanditnews.com


(Tumon, Guam) The 35th Guam Legislature has started its first anti-corruption probe of its term. Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee this morning released an analysis her office conducted on the misuse of public funds by the Agat Mayors Office. The analysis reveals that one of the office's staffers was reimbursed $46,138.11, or nearly twice her annual salary in 2019.


Ms. Lee's analysis of the Agat Mayor's Office is the start of a full analysis she is calling to begin in the Guam Legislature of every mayor's office regarding the use of non-appropriated funds.


Non-appropriated funds are funds used, in this case by mayors and their several municipal planning councils, that are not appropriated by the Guam Legislature. The rules governing the expenditure and accountability of these NAFs are found in the Mayors Council of Guam Standard Operating Procedures on NAFs.


Examples of money collected by each mayor's office and used by their respective offices as NAPs are monies solicited from businesses, cash made from the conduct of village bingo and other games, and cash donated by people.


According to Ms. Lee's analysis of reports of NAFs by the Agat Mayor's Office, employee Rowen Malaga was paid 34 times between February 8, 2019, and December 26, 2019 for reimbursements and "None listed" transaction types. Of the 34 payments to Ms. Malaga, there are 11 instances of reimbursement notes where the purchases are described, 11 instances of reimbursement notes with no description of the purchases, nine entries of "None listed" transaction types, and thrice, where the payment listed was for "Mango."


The mango payments are in the amounts, $2,000, $1,725, and $3,050.


In the first quarter of 2019, Ms. Malaga was reimbursed $6,319.93 in four separate checks, one of which was for $2,000 to purchase Easter and Mango Festival supplies from the Philippines.


The second quarter breakdown shows Ms. Malaga was paid $17,959.16 in 12 separate checks, which include the three checks written for mango. All of the "None listed" transaction types occurred in this quarter.


The third quarter breakdown shows Ms. Malaga was paid $14,450.84 in 11 separate checks, all of which were noted to be reimbursements, with only one noting a description. That description indicates the purchase of two airline tickets for a total of $2,743.90.


The final calendar quarter breakdown shows Ms. Malaga was paid $7,408.18 in six separate checks.


According to the Mayors Council SOP on NAFs, reimbursement of non-appropriated funds is highly discouraged. There are no internal controls governing this system.


These governing rules state that for expenses as large as the ones made by Ms. Malaga, for which she was reimbursed, Agat's Municipal Planning Council would have had to approve the payment to Ms. Malaga.


Under the council's internal controls, the mayor, or in his absence, the vice mayor or his designee would have had to sign the checks to Ms. Malaga.


Ms. Lee wrote to Attorney General Leevin Camacho, Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz, and mayors oversight chairman Sen. Jose Terlaje requesting various forms of action to be taken.



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