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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

More anomalies hound disgraced former GFA president

The Office of Public Accountability has uncovered a number of anomalous transactions involving the Guam Football Association, whose former president earlier pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.

The OPA audit released Tuesday found among others that GFA, without the benefit of a public bidding, awarded project contracts to close relatives and acquaintances of then GFA president Richard Lai and other group executives.

“GFA did not follow the Federation International Football Association and Asia Football Confederation codes of ethics provisions on conflict of interest,” the OPA said.

OPA found no records on project bid proposals, hence no way to determine if GFA was getting the best value for money.

The audit also found eight reimbursement checks worth $99,000 payable to GFA executives, whose signatures also appeared on the checks.

“Reimbursements should not be signed, even consigned by the payee in order to ensure proper independent authorization to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest,” OPA said.

Lai, who has since been replaced by Valentino Gil as GFA president, has been banned for life by FIFA after his April 17 conviction in Us. District Court.

Lai agreed to pay $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties after pleading guilty to two counts of wire fraud and conspiracy for his participation in multiple schemes to accept and pay bribes to soccer officials. He was also charged with one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

OPA also questioned other undocumented transactions such as the free use of government properties.

GFA has secured a partnership with the government of Guam for the construction of a soccer stadium, which allowed the organization to enjoy tax credits that have accumulated to $1 million since 1997. GovGuam has also granted GFA two leases of Guam lands for $1 a year.

The lease for an 30, property in Dededo, valued at $893,000, is good for 30 years. GFA is also leasing a $397,000 worth of property in Agat— which measures 48,492 sq. meter—for 25 years.

OPA, however, noted that the Department of parks and Recreation failed to execute a memorandum of understanding for the use of the success stadium built in Dededo.

“As a result, the public was unaware that the Norther Soccer Stadium was built with the intention that it will be available to the general public,” OPA said.

Besides tax incentives, GFA received from government cash appropriations amounting to $700,000 between 2013 and 2016. GFA, however, has not paid $400,000 of the matching fund requirement.

OPA also called out the Guam Visitors Bureau for not requesting an accounting of the $400,000 it provided the GFA to host and participate in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, and 2019 Asian Cup 2019 preliminary qualifiers.


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