- By Pacific island Times News Staff
Bill to set limits on public health, procurement emergency directives
Sen. Wil Castro
Declaring public emergencies, while it may be necessary, should not be an automatic solution to a crisis, Sen. Wil Castro said.
"While a declaration of a state of emergency empowers the governor of Guam to act expeditiously, it is imperative that in times of extended emergencies, especially given the current dire economic outlook, transparency and fiscal responsibility are prioritized,” said Castro, a candidate for the delegate seat in Congress.
Senators on Tuesday heard Bill 399-35 relative to the renewal of declarations of public health Emergencies that also includes provisions relative to procurement activities during such times.
Democrat and Republican senators as well as Congressman Michael F.Q. San Nicolas and former Congressman Robert A. Underwood testified in support of the measure.
Guam law currently addresses the declaration, enforcement and termination of a state of public health emergency but does not include measures specific to the renewal of declarations.
Participating panelists acknowledged the need to address the unprecedented protracted state of emergency Guam is experiencing. The initial declaration of a state of emergency as a result of Covid-19 was on March 13 and has been extended seven times.
While the bill does not limit the governor’s authority to effectuate a declaration of a state of emergency, it does call for certain conditions to be met before a public health emergency and emergency procurement powers may be extended.
Castro reiterated concerns of reported abuse of emergency procurement powers, resultant items or services of a lower quality and/or higher prices.
Bill 399-35 seeks to establish the conditions and findings required for a renewal of a declaration of state of public health emergency. The bill also requires that established procurement law and regulations be adhered to after the initial state of emergency.
The Republican Party of Guam specifically questioned the government's nursing contract, which was executed by virtue of the governor's emergency authority.
"One of the advantages that the state of a public health emergency declaration provides the governor of Guam, is the ability to bypass many procurement laws," the party said in a statement.
"For example, a member of the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration’s transition team, who chaired the sub-committee on Health and Human Services, has been provided a lucrative contract without needing to bid, to essentially check the temperatures of those in quarantined hotels, and to simply ask the individual, 'Do you have any symptoms?'” They also charge $100 an hour.
The Republican Party of Guam asked why the administration did not contract nursing students from the Guam Community College or the University of Guam to conduct these tasks, and allow them to benefit from the experience "instead of gifting a political friend who will earn millions with this arrangement."
"Is this the reason why Governor Lou Leon Guerrero is adamant in keeping these quarantine facilities open?" the Republican Party said, asking what the Democrat-led legislature is doing to address this issue.