A bill promising to add some transparency with government operations during a state of public health emergency received public testimony on Monday.
Bill 338-35 mandates the governor or public health authority to report on actions taken during the emergency, such as seizing a medical facility or supplies from private entities.
"The Emergency Powers Act presently does not have any transparency language in place that requires the governor of Guam or the public health authority to provide any information or report to the people of Guam, hence the importance of the legislation," said a release from Sen. James Moylan, author of the bill.
A major controversy during the COVID-19 pandemic on Guam was the procurement of hotels used to host travelers coming to the island.
Michelle Armenta, former president of the nonprofit Vigilance Committee, and Dominic Hernandez, who operates The Informant web page according to Moylan, appeared for the hearing. So did Troy Torres, a former staffer of former Gov. Eddie Calvo who turned whistleblower, and who now runs Kandit News.
"During these COVID-19 pandemic times, I have witnessed the rights of the people of Guam trampled upon by our elected officials who have asserted their alleged authority, pursuant to Chapter 19 of Title 10 of the Government Code, to shred the Open Government Law. ... Compliance with the Open Government Law must never be considered as mere 'bureaucracy,'" Armenta said, according to Moylan's release.
Meanwhile, Hernandez stated in the release that fiduciary duty is an ethical code that should be held to the highest standard by government officials.
"The fact that we are sitting here discussing ways for our government, in particular our governor, to be transparent during a public health emergency questions this ethical code," Hernandez added, according to the release.
Torres offered ways to amend the emergency powers act as well, such as requiring three price quotes to conduct procurement.
'Transparency is the best policy'
Moylan said he looked forward to advancing Bill 338.
"At the end of the day, it's the people's government, and they deserve to know what is happening, whether we are in a pandemic or it's business as usual. I look forward to making some modifications to this measure based on the public's input, and I am certain my colleagues will agree that the measure needs to advance as 'transparency is the best policy,'" he stated in his release.