By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The salary increases for the Guam Housing and Urban Authority's executive and deputy directors have been suspended since last year following concerns earlier raised by the Office of Public Accountability, said Ray Topasna, GHURA's executive director.
Topasna issued the statement on the heels of a legal opinion recently issued by the Office of the Attorney General declaring that retroactive salary raises for government executives are prohibited under Guam law.
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"GHURA very much respects the AG’s authority to ensure adherence to our laws. The housing authority is a one-of-a-kind agency, created through the Organic Act and we commit to ensuring proper stewardship and the highest standards for its Public Housing, Urban Renewal, and Community Development Mission,' Topasna said.
As a fully federally funded and highly regulated agency, Topasna said, GHURA is "expected to achieve nothing less" to ensure fiscal responsibility and transparency.
"To attain the highest levels of compliance, GHURA shall undertake a comprehensive review of all laws and regulations which govern our expenditures, as well as the policies, procedures and controls that we operate under," Topasna said in a statement.
"The Organic Act and our enabling act, which instruct us to do all things necessary to achieve our mission, also commands that we do nothing less," he added.
While GHURA abides by local laws pertaining to the agency, Topasna said the agency is required to ensure that local mandates do not conflict with the federal laws that govern the expenditures. "This is the balance we strive to achieve," he said.
In July 2019, GHURA approved supplemental expenditures for procurement of vehicles and equipment, increases in payments to Sec. 8 landlords, and increases in pay for its staff.
"Because of an on-island visit from HUD officials, we were made aware of a risk to our funding levels and believed these supplemental expenditures were necessary to avoid a permanent decrease in those levels," Topasna said.
He said the supplemental expenditures were critical to the agency's operations and the staff was tasked with planning for and programming them.
"We are proud to now say that, because of their efforts, we were able to avoid permanently decreased funding levels," Topasna said. "In fact, our funding levels have increased substantially, and the Housing Authority is now at all-time highs in funding. GHURA will nonetheless remain committed to proper stewardship over federal dollars, compliance with local law, fiscal responsibility and transparency."