OPA: Guam's ethics law has no teeth
Although Guam's elected and appointed officials are required by law to attend ethics in government training, there are no consequences for anyone who may choose not to comply with such a mandate. The Office of Public Accountability noted that there is no entity is tasked to monitor compliance and the law does not provide corresponding penalties for noncompliance.
OPA is recommending that the Guam Ethics Commission be designated the responsibility of monitoring compliance of ethics training for elected and appointed officials.
“At a minimum, documentation from participants should include a certificate of completion (with the sponsor, program title, date of the program and number of continuing professional education (CPE) hours), name of the instructor, outline of the presentation, and relevant program materials,” OPA stated in a newly released report. “Records should be maintained for five years.”
Public Law 28-76 established ethics in government program for elected and appointed officials including appointed members of government boards and commissions.
The law requires that attend an ethics course within 90 days of taking office while appointed officials are required to attend within six months of their appointments and shall undergo the refresher ethics in government program at least once every four years.
“As elected and appointed officials, we wield considerable power over a number of important community matters. With this power comes the expectation that we will hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards,” Public Auditor Benjamin J.F. Cruz said. “We are entrusted with a great responsibility to run the affairs of our government with honesty and integrity and must ensure that decisions be made for the greater good of the community rather than self-interest.”
In March 2021, OPA requested evidence from every elected and appointed official of their attendance at the required training.
“We noticed a flurry of courses being scheduled to bring their officials into compliance," Cruz said.
"We produced this report to highlight the importance of the required training and to raise our elected and appointed officials’ awareness of the greater scope of responsibilities their positions hold. Additionally, this is also to encourage greater accountability and the judicious use of authority for the greater good of the community," he added.
OPA welcomed the passage of Sen. Sabina Perez's Bill 94-36, which would require ethics in government training for all GovGuam employees.
"We believe that if an employee, and not just the agency head or oversight board, is informed and educated on their ethical responsibilities, it does not only ensure government integrity within the workplace but also gains trust from the people we serve," OPA said.
OPA’s compliance audit of elected and appointed officials attending ethics in government program training found that the following complied with the mandate: all elected executive and legislative branch officials, including the governor, lt. governor, attorney general, public auditor, 15 members of the 36th Guam Legislature, and the six elected Guam Education Board officials; 19 elected mayorsand six vice mayors; four Consolidated Commission on Utilities Commissioners; and 286 appointed positions serving in various capacities as agency heads, board or commission members.
Ethics in government has drawn fresh attention on the heels of a complaint filed against Sen. Telo Taitague, who was accused of receiving a designer purse from a government contractor.