The Office of Public Accountability plans to issue three COVID-19-related audits before Dec. 31, according to Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz. These include audits on hotel procurement, fund disbursements and compensation payments.
"I am hoping that the current external audit firms will audit the COVID expenditures of their contracted departments and agencies," Cruz said. "I may need to get a supplemental appropriation or ask for CARES funds to contract firms to conduct the required audit for the other GovGuam agency COVID expenditures."
The OPA also plans to issue the first in a series of Port Authority of Guam audits on the "Port 7," the controversial group of workers who were terminated and then reinstated after years of litigation involving an allegedly fraudulent workers' compensation claim, according to Cruz. The office also plans to issue its second mayor's audit on host village expenditures and an audit on compliance with procurement training mandates.
Cruz is running unopposed for the public auditor position this election cycle.
He first assumed office in September 2018 and began reducing staff to meet limitations in the fiscal year 2019 budget.
"I had to release three senior auditors who were unclassified and two recently hired auditors. I had to run the office with 10 auditors, five auditors II and five accountability auditors I," Cruz said.
The fiscal 2020 budget did not provide for an increase in staff and during the first month of that fiscal year, Cruz lost one of his experienced auditors because he did not have the budget to promote her.
A couple months later, and he lost one of two certified public auditors to the University of Guam, where she could be paid $30,000 more, Cruz said.
"I was able to replace these two senior auditors with recent graduates. I now have four accountability auditors III overseeing four accountability auditors II, and two accountability auditors I," Cruz said.
Working within limitations
To run an audit, Cruz said he will assign a team of one accountability auditor III overseeing one auditor in charge. And to provide experience to new auditors, he will assign an auditor I to the team, Cruz said.
"This means I am limited to four audits. Because of the public demand for audits on the COVID funds, some teams are doing concurrent audits," he added.
The OPA has received more requests and recommendations than it can currently handle, Cruz said.
In December, the OPA will meet to discuss and decide on performance audits it hopes to write next year.
The OPA also handles procurement protest appeals. It has conducted hearings in person and via Zoom to resolve all appeals. When the OPA issues the decision on an appeal filed by Basil Food Industrial Services Corp. and a stipulation including Soderholm Sales and Leasing Inc., involving a bus procurement, the office will have resolved all appeals currently filed, Cruz said.