In today's edition of The Guam Daily Post, our reporting looked into the travel expenses of several government of Guam agencies that reported their trips to the Guam Legislature in a year's span through this year's second quarter.
For these agencies or departments alone, the cost ran up to nearly $542,000 in a year. Nearly half of the travel spending was incurred by the Department of Public Works, which has shown a pattern of sending multiple people to one conference. In one recent conference where the venue offered busing to the home of the Kentucky Derby, 10 people went. In another similar conference a year earlier, nine DPW-funded travelers went to San Antonio, five of whom were DPW managers. The agency has stated that the conference offered multiple topics, hence the big travel party.
While some departments or agencies that reported their travel offered details on the dates of the travel, the cost of the trip for each member of the travel party and the name of the training or conference, not all were as transparent.
The travel reports were for the period between the second quarter of 2018 and third quarter of 2019, according to reports submitted to the 34th and 35th Guam Legislatures.
In addition to DPW, the Office of Public Accountability, Office of the Attorney General, Department of Administration, Guam Economic Development Authority and Department of Revenue and Taxation filed travel reports.
The total for all reported travel reached $541,935 – mostly federally funded. The local government cost was nearly a third, at $151,217.
To ensure transparency to the public, the reporting requirements for these travels should include a universal form that requires travelers to fill out required disclosure of, among other things:
• how much in per diem was paid;
• what type of airfare – economy or business – was purchased and the justification for an expensive airline seat;
• whether the traveler was attaching personal leave before or after the travel;
• what items were being paid for outside of the per diem allowance with attached receipts;
• whether the hotel accommodation was in a budget or luxury hotel and the cost per night;
• how much in ground transportation cost was incurred; and
• a sworn affidavit that the purpose or purposes of the trip could not be achieved via video conference, phone calls or other more cost-saving means.
Some of the travel reports the Post reviewed showed that DPW and the Guam Economic Development Authority in particular had incurred a number of travels in the last several weeks of the administration of then-Gov. Eddie Calvo. And some of the officials who went on the trips probably had an idea they were heading out the door because of the change in administration.
The government of Guam's travel law and rules need an update to require more transparency and accountability, and discourage abuse of government resources.
Here's another idea: Travel should be banned within an administration's last quarter in office – at least for people who are political appointees.
This will at least stop the rush to travel before one's GovGuam job no longer exists.
Governor, senators, Office of Public Accountability and Guam Ethics Commission, this is within your power to change.