There are a lot of reasons why we need to give careful attention to the words of politicians, but the most important one is how free they feel spending our money; and the latest pronouncements coming out of Adelup, on building a new Guam Memorial Hospital, should raise red flags for everyone because the taxpayers of Guam can't afford anymore political pork barrel projects.
Reason No. 1: I have been concerned the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration would use building a new hospital as a pork barrel to reward politically well-connected insiders in much the same manner the Calvo-Tenorio administration tried to use rebuilding Simon Sanchez High School for the same purposes, driving up cost estimates from $72 million to over $160 million.
Reason No. 2: The numbers Adelup is using as talking points don't add up. The Army Corps of Engineers recently completed a similar study on the LBJ Tropical Medical Center in American Samoa. Both the GMH and TMC are similar in size and age, and suffered the same level of maintenance neglect. The Army Corps estimated renovation and repair of the medical center would cost $170 million and complete replacement with a new facility including land purchase will cost $390 million.
Where did they get these numbers?
Considering that Guam has a larger construction industry and better shipping logistics than American Samoa, it stands to reason the cost of a new hospital on Guam should be less than the new hospital for American Samoa. So the question now becomes: Where did the governor get the numbers for the GMH repair vs. new build she is sharing with the public?
I don't think she got them from the Army Corps because I have FOIA'd the Army Corps report to see how it compares to the American Samoa report and was told the report is not complete.
This reminds me of the infamous GMH main electric panel, that was a pork barrel project carried over from the Calvo administration, which was a $6 million slice of pork until the Guam Power Authority declared the panel fine. Not to be outdone, the Leon Guerrero administration has fattened that slice of pork to $11 million without a legitimate survey report.
Could the new hospital she is touting at $743 million, being a cheaper option than a $761 million repair, have any basis in reality? We won't know until we see the final Army Corps survey report.
Reason No. 3: The coronavirus outbreak is happening today. Efforts and resources to combat the epidemic need to be targeted in the here and now, not 10 years in the future. Any financial resources and administrative brainpower diverted to the "new hospital" pork barrel project means less financial resources and brainpower addressing how we can make things better for the people of Guam as our island deals with the very real economic and public health issues arising out of the coronavirus today with the limited resources at our fingertips now.
My big fear is that the administration will be looking at any federal funds being sent Guam's way to fight the impacts of the coronavirus as further rewards to be dished out to politically well-connected insiders, without concern for the rest of us.
Ken Leon-Guerrero is the spokesperson for the Guam Citizens for Public Accountability.