By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) University of Guam spokesman Jonas Macapinlac said that two February 2018 shopping sprees at Macy's in Dededo using a government-issued credit card were for the purchases of FitBit devices. We asked why UOG didn't purchase the devices online, where they are cheaper, or whether the government procurement process was followed.
"Other local vendors did not have units available," Mr. Macapinlac replied to our inquiry on conformity to the procurement laws, insinuating that Dr. Rachael Leon Guerrero's (the card is issued in her name) February 26 and 27, 2018 Macy's purchases totaling $829.58 amounted to a sanctioned sole-source procurement. He did not provide records proving this was so. We requested those documents via the Freedom of Information Act and await UOG's disclosure of these documents.
Mr. Macapinlac also told Kandit the reason the purchases were made at Macy's and not online was because the brand's website didn't ship to Guam. He never responded to our inquiry as to why UOG did not purchase the devices at a far cheaper price on Amazon, which is UOG's preferred online vendor based on the stack of credit card statements we have reviewed.
"Attempts were also made to purchase online at Fitbit.com, but the company had stopped shipping to Guam at the time," Mr. Macapinlac told us.
However, this isn't true.
Just two months prior to Ms. Leon Guerrero's February 2018, Macy's purchases of supposed FitBit devices, she had used that same credit card to purchase $2,699.50 in merchandise on Fitbit.com, despite Mr. Macapinlac's claim that those same purchases the following February were not possible. She made the purchase on December 13, 2017. The transaction is presented in the December 28, 2017 Bank of Guam credit card statement to the university for Ms. Leon Guerrero's card.
To be sure, Kandit tried to place an order on Fitbit.com to see whether the online store ships to Guam. Under the 'State' pulldown menu, Guam is included. The site even corrects postal zip codes to match Guam villages to the accurate code. Fitbit also waives shipping fees.
We have confirmed with FitBit that since the December 2017 credit card purchases by Ms. Leon Guerrero on its online store through the time she purchased the devices (the university still has not provided us with proof of the receipts showing that these in fact were the products purchased at Macy's using the credit card) and to today, that FitBit has not stopped shipping to Guam, as Mr. Macapinlac told us.
This only is the latest in a mounting pile of misuse of public funds by the University of Guam, sanctioned by the University of Guam, and now covered up by the University of Guam.
We have copied Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz in a number of our correspondence with UOG. We have not received any response from his office as of yet.
UOG is a public university and instrumentality of the government of Guam, and receives most of its funding from taxpayers. As a matter of fact, its General Fund subsidy is larger than the funding Guam Memorial Hospital receives.
As a percentage of operations, UOG utilizes taxpayer funds at a higher rate than most public colleges in the country, which rely primarily on endowments from its alumni.
The University of Guam's decades-old alumni association and endowment foundation, which both are operated using public funds using highly-paid government administrators to run both, have been abject failures at raising the funding to move UOG toward financial autonomy.
UOG is the only so-called autonomous agency of the government of Guam that is unable to fund itself. It never has.