By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The Guam Visitors Bureau charged its corporate credit card for the dinner of seven agency officials’ spouses during an off-island trip, according to the Office of Public Accountability.
"The spouses were part of a business meeting to discuss the visa waiver program and to 'amplify mutually beneficial relations between Guam and the Philippines," the OPA said.
Auditors noted that GVB's policy requires cardholders to obtain prior approval before using the corporate credit card to pay for entertainment expenses directly connected with official business.
The OPA found that the dinner expense worth $515 was made before the written request was submitted and approved.
The GVB travel policy requires detailed justification for business meetings
conducted while on official travel.
However, the OPA said details of three dinner expenses were incomplete. The expense reports did not include the list of people who attended the dinner meetings.
"One of the expenses, costing $700, did not have a receipt because the staff lost it. The three dinner expenses totaled approximately $4,000 and were part of a budget for 'unanticipated' travel expenses in San Diego, California.
The GVB's travel reports also indicated that traveling GVB employees received per diem allowances above the legal ceiling.
The government travel law requires GovGuam employees to receive an advance per diem allowance based on the federal government’s rate, which is 75 percent of the total meals and incidentals rate on the first and last day of travel.
"However, eight GVB employees received 100 percent per diem rates or $358 in excess per diem allowance," the OPA said.
"Additionally, two travelers received their allowances eight and 12 working days (or two to three weeks) in advance of their travel dates. The early advancement
of the allowance increased the risk of travelers misappropriating their per diem," the report said.
The GVB report was the second in a series of the OPA's review of the government of Guam's credit card use and travel expenses.
"From fiscal years 2020 to FY 2022, the Guam Visitors Bureau officials used their corporate credit cards not in compliance with certain provisions of its credit card policy and procedures and the Guam procurement law and
regulations," the OPA said. "Questioned costs were $23,000 (or 29 percent)
of the $79,000 total credit card expenditures."
While noting credit card policy violations, the OPA said did not find any instances of fraud or abuse.
"This audit was included in our 2023 annual audit plan due to the inherent risk of abuse from using credit and debit cards as a convenient payment method," the OPA said.
The GVB's Corporate Credit Card Policy and Procedures, implemented in January 2020, set conditions for the issuance, limitations, and usage of corporate credit cards.
The OPA found that the GVB increased the credit limits on its corporate credit
cards from $83,000 to $95,000 without the board of directors’ approval.
"The increase was automatically applied by the bank for the GVB’s timely payments of credit card transactions," the OPA said, noting that one of the credit cards is being used for personal expenses without going through proper
procedures before purchasing.
"However, the lack of board approval for this change resulted in non-compliance with their policy," the report said.
The OPA also found that the tourism office violated the policy that requires
prior approval and certification of funding availability for credit card purchases.
For 11 purchases that were reviewed, the OPA noted that the signatures of authorized officials were missing, resulting in questioned costs totaling $4,000.
A review of GVB's transactions also indicated that quotations were not solicited before the procurement file.
"For 10 samples, price quotations (or price range) were missing or had insufficient support for the vendor selection. For two samples, vendors were
selected without soliciting from other vendors providing the same type of goods," the OPA said.
"There is no assurance that the lowest responsible and responsive vendor was selected. Questioned costs totaled $18,000," it added.