If you ask a lot of people on Guam, they’ll be quick to tell you that there’s widespread corruption within the government and other institutions that influence the everyday lives of citizens. They will often cite the "pari" system, suggesting that you have to know or be related to someone up there in the government to get by.
Whether true or not, this perception by the people has a negative effect on both the local economy and the functioning of the government.
Many countries and states recognize this and have been tracking what is broadly described as corruption for many years.
In 2015, the University of Guam School of Business & Public Administration gathered survey data in line with worldwide studies to compare Guam with others for the first time. As the presenters of this data hastened to emphasize, it’s a snapshot of public opinion in 2015 and will be followed up with surveys in the future.
Top findings cannot be comforting to local political parties, the Department of Corrections, the office of the governor and the police, who back then were viewed as the most corrupt.
Religious bodies and the military were at the bottom of the list, though UOG economics professor Maria Claret M. Ruane suggested to reporters that the hundreds of clergy sexual abuse cases filed against priests and the church since 2015 will probably result in a different ranking the next time around.
Another notable finding: “Out of 273 respondents, one third said that Guam is run by a few ‘big interests’ to a ‘very large extent,’ while 2.2 percent of respondents state that Guam is ‘not at all’ run by ‘big interests.’
Is such a study likely to promote cynicism about government rather than a positive effort for change?
“We were worried that there has been this perception… it is a concern, but does that mean you don’t do the survey? Does that mean you stop? For us, it’s an entry to dialogue,” UOG Professor Gena A. Rojas said.
“We really don’t want to say, ‘We’re the worst and there’s no hope.’ We want to put it in context,” Ruane said.
The study recommends the government of Guam should increase transparency across the board in all departments and agencies and ensure that appointed officials and government employees undergo training in ethics.
A case in point brought up by reporters is the apparent longstanding abuse of the "first-come-first-served" policy of the Marianas Public Land Trust in the awarding of land leases.
Another recommendation of the report was to encourage more reporting of alleged corruption or other abuse of public trust, given indications in the survey that members of the public are willing to allege these things, but have little stomach for getting personally involved in doing anything about them.