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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

3 top OPA executives receive walking papers

Newly sworn-in Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz has asked three top executives at the Office of Public Accountability to turn in their resignation as part his 2019 fiscal realignment plan aimed at cutting personnel cost.

The executives who are on their way out are Special Assistant Rodalyn Gerardo, Deputy Public Auditor Yukari Hechanova and Executive Llewelyn Terlaje. They are longtime OPA employees, who have been holding unclassified positions.

“I cannot classify them at this point. I need to get this office stabilized first,” Cruz said,announcing his fiscal realignment plan on his first day in office Monday. “I will probably be making decisions in the early next calendar year whether I will ask the Department of Administration to announce the opening for supervisor and manager for two classified positions.”

While the executives who are leaving OPA may apply for any new classified positions, Cruz said they cannot expect the same salary levels they have received as unclassified employees. According to the staffing pattern, Gerardo is receiving $127,829 in annual salary and benefits; Hechanova, 132,053; and Terlaje, 112,929.

“Twelve years ago, I told Doris that this office should not have unclassified positions,” Cruz said.

Besides the three executives, Cruz has also relieved two new auditors who are currently on probation.

Under the fiscal 2019 budget that will be rolled out on Oct. 1, OPA stands to receive $1.2 million, which is $140,000 less than its current budget and $400,000 less than the amount requested by former public auditor Doris Flores-Brooks. The current staffing pattern shows OPA’s personnel cost is $1.3 million.

According to the OPA’s 2017 Citizen-Centric Report issued August 2018, OPA overspent its FY 2017 budget of $1.4 million by $100,000 by dipping into cash reserves. In opening the books for FY 2018, OPA preliminarily expects to overspend an additional $160,000.

“The OPA cannot be the office that continues to overspend its appropriated funds and then tell every other government of Guam agency to live within their means. It is unconscionable to say one thing and do another. OPA will lead by example to make the difficult, but necessary cuts to cope with the FY 2019 budget cuts,” said Cruz, former speaker of the legislature and chairman of the appropriations committee.

Cruz said the release of the three classified and two probationary employees will save OPA $450,000 and leave $100,000 in leftover.

Besides the three unclassified employees, OPA currently has 18 classified employees for a total of 21 filled positions. The staffing pattern shows four vacant classified positions.

While acknowledging that the loss of the employees will greatly impact OPA’s operations, Cruz said “fiscal responsibility is paramount for the office that seeks to ensure public trust and the assurance of good governance.”

Gerardo, Hechanova and Terlaje will remain in office for a few more weeks to help with the transition, Cruz said.

Cruz, who won in the special election for public auditor which coincided with the Aug. 25 primary, was sworn into office on Thursday last week and officially assumed office on Monday. He replaced Flores-Brooks, Guam's longtime public auditor who resigned from OPA to run for Congress. (Read more about Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz’s OPA reforms in the October print edition of the Pacific Island Times.)

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