Editor's note: This is the second part of an op-ed from Charles D. Stake.
Putting it in realistic perspective, history has shown us that, other than military and national security issues, Guam’s problems including misuse of funds are not high-priority matters for the federal government. Although it would be nice, we cannot expect a great deal of federal enforcement regarding misuse of funds. Also, some of the funds misused are frequently nonfederal and locally appropriated. Consequently, there is no federal jurisdiction to attack that issue. Therefore, if we are serious about our concerns with misuse of taxpayer funds, it is incumbent upon us and our own elected officials to deal with this recurring problem ourselves. It is suggested that we adopt a mirror-image version of the criminal and civil False Claims Act for enforcement by our local attorney general. This statute is recognized by professionals as one of the best tools available and it has been time-tested as effective by the many fraud cases successfully brought by the federal government. Thirty-one states including the District of Columbia have adopted local mirror-image versions of the federal False Claims Act – both criminal and civil versions. If the federal government declines to pursue misuse of federal funds, we need to have our own tools in place to effectively deal with the issue whether it be federal or local public money.
It is further suggested that we adopt a local mirror-image version of the federal false official statements act to replace our outdated unsworn falsification law. The false official statements act is a prosecutorial tool already proven to be very effective in combating intentional misuse of public funds and public corruption in general. Finally, we should review our current long-standing Guam Code Title 9 generalized theft, theft by deception, fraud and embezzlement laws with an eye toward dealing specifically with misuse of public funds. 18 U.S. Code 641 Public Money Property or Records “embezzled stolen purloined or converted" serves this purpose for the federal government and has been used effectively to deal with knowing intentional misuse of taxpayer funds.
Any reform such as suggested above will undoubtedly be a long, difficult battle. John Brown, my friend, colleague, and knowledgeable Guam Procurement Code authority attorney, has valiantly attempted reform legislative initiatives to curtail endless frivolous procurement protests and to deal with false claims but has been unable to get his progressive reform initiatives through the special-interest quagmire of local politics. If we want true reform, we must expect opposition and be prepared to see it through to a successful conclusion.
Charles D. Stake, a retired federal attorney, is a Barrigada resident.