Many members of our community have invested lots of years, time and money to earn professional certifications in their respective career fields.
Accountants, engineers, nurses, attorneys and physicians are among those who put their lives and the lives of their families on partial hold as they spend years in college. After having completed a four-year degree, they struggle on through post-graduate to doctoral studies, and then continue to get the requisite on-the-job training and delve into further studies to pass their respective licensing board examinations.
So when it recently came to public light that Agat Mayor Kevin Susuico – in his past job as a Port Authority of Guam employee – will get years of back pay after he was fired for lacking even the minimum qualifications for a position specified as an accountant II, members of the community of certified and licensed professionals on Guam, particularly accountants, must feel insulted or enraged.
It must be disheartening for career accountants who were qualified for the position but got passed over or didn't even try applying out of concern their credentials might not be enough. For Susuico to have secured the job by merely getting a two-year marketing degree without even submitting his transcripts, as indicated by a Civil Service Commission report, is astounding.
Needless to say, to be a certified public accountant on Guam, one needs to pass the licensing board process, and the requirements are established as part of Guam law.
Yet, the issue involving Susuico's hiring at the Port Authority of Guam as an accountant II – even when the CSC had determined he didn't have the required accounting degree, the creditable work experience as an accountant or a CPA license, shows there's something wrong with the hiring system. A full audit of career professionals who were hired based on "creditable work experience" – at the Port Authority and other agencies and departments in GovGuam should be done. In 2013, the same year, CSC deemed Susuico unqualified, it also determined that the hiring of Port Authority cargo checkers Vincent A. Toves and Jeffrey Q. Cruz, as well as accountant Salvador Guevara, was null and void because the three failed to meet the qualifications at the time they were employed.
In Susuico's case, a human resources manager gave him 12 years of "creditable work experience" for the accountant job even when his experience had to do with sales-oriented accounts with phone companies, a logistics business, and a cafe his family ran. This same human resources manager is seeking to get her job back even as, according to the court documents in a separate case, she allegedly back-dated a memo that allowed another Port Authority manager to get more travel and per diem payments on a trip to Hawaii.
The CSC had strong words for its decision to have Susuico fired from the Port Authority.
"In fact, the employee possess(es) absolutely no creditable work experience associated with accounting and therefore should not have been qualified," CSC concluded, in 2012, which led to the firing of Susuico months later, in January 2013.
The Supreme Court of Guam in a recent ruling ordered Susuico to get years of back pay at the Port Authority and have him reinstated to the job he wasn't qualified for, to begin with. The local Supreme Court decided – based on a technicality – that the Port Authority failed to notify Susuico within the 60-day notification period from when his employer knew or should have known he wasn't qualified for the job.
The Port Authority management has now indicated it will crunch the numbers for Susuico's back wages payday, contending that the Supreme Court has the last say.
This should not be the end of the road for government accountability's sake.
There are avenues and approaches the Guam attorney general's office, the Guam Board of Accountancy, the Guam Ethics Commission and the Guam Election Commission can take as a team, or separately, to hold those responsible accountable to the public. Agat voters who elected Susuico should also ask questions as he is an elected official representing their village.
The AG's office doesn't have to look far. It took The Guam Daily Post one phone call to get the documents they could use to start their inquiry. The CSC post-investigation report, which is public information, provided the document and resume for Susuico - the papers indicate who among the Port Authority officials at the time signed off on his hiring, including the signature that gave him 12 years and four months of "creditable work experience."
It is in GovGuam's interest to vet those who were hired for their professional qualifications. Without it, the GovGuam hiring process will be viewed as a joke. And the cruel joke will ultimately be on voters, taxpayers and ratepayers who carry the burden of the bloated salaries of GovGuam officials and personnel, including those with titles they aren't qualified to hold.