Public Works clears some debts; still owes more than $1M to employees

DEBT: The Department of Public Works compound in Upper Tumon is shown in this file photo. DPW recently disclosed it owes more than $1 million in prior-year obligations to its employees. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Some employees of the Department of Public Works have been waiting 15 years for promised compensation.

For the past three legislative terms, DPW has been the only executive branch agency to report unpaid prior-year obligations quarterly to the Guam Legislature. Other agencies submit their debts annually through detailed budget requests.

Departments also give advance notice of their intent to pay prior-year obligations, which is required under the current budget law. Additionally, that law says these debts can be paid only provided the expense "does not negatively impact the current operational needs" of the agency making the request.

DPW has disclosed it owes $1.1 million to employees as of March 31. The debt includes unpaid overtime compensation, merit bonuses and successful appeals of Competitive Wage Act pay adjustments.

Several of the obligations go as far back as 2005. At least 13 employees are owed more than $10,000. One DPW worker is owed more than $100,000 in back wages. The report classifies the expense as a "reinstatement" for work performed between 2011 and 2014. Unpaid merit bonuses are due to 181 DPW employees, with individual debts ranging from $1,000 to just over $3,000.

The 2014 Competitive Wage Act prompted appeals from GovGuam employees who felt they were misclassified, or unfairly demoted. Many DPW workers were given raises as a result of these appeals, with the department reporting $249,098.71 in salaries owed to their employees – some of whom are waiting for tens of thousands of dollars in compensation.

DPW decreased its prior-year obligations by more than $440,000 in the past six months. On April 23, it reported to the Legislature that it was paying $3,224 it owed to an employee who was retiring. The department's debt to that worker dated back to 2007.

Multiple calls to DPW Director Vince Arriola on the matter were not returned as of press time.

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