By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Government of Guam officials charged with filing financial reports would be fined for late submissions under a bill proposed by Sen. Telo Taitague.
Under Bill 213-37, penalties collected from delinquent filers would be directed to Guam Memorial Hospital’s operation funds.
“Our tax dollars are paying large salaries and millions in benefits to agency directors – the least they can do is provide timely financial reports so the Office of Public Accountability can complete their audit in time for our budget sessions,” Taitague said.
The bill was prompted by the delay in the release of the fiscal 2022 GovGuam financial audit, which Taitague said was “unacceptable.”
The lax compliance with the reporting requirement, she added, “makes it clear that financial penalties are needed to make sure agency leaders aren’t slacking off. Director salaries go up, but performance goes down.”
Taitague said Bill 213-37 is supported by Public Auditor Benjamin J.F. Cruz. The legislation would authorize the OPA to establish deadlines for agencies to submit required financial reports and statements necessary for GovGuam audits.
An additional $250 fine would be assessed for every 30 days reporting deadlines that are not met.
“My colleagues and I were forced to pass the 2024 budget act without the information contained in the final FY22 audit because directors repeatedly failed to submit their financial records to the auditing team in a timely manner,” Taitague said.
She noted that during the legislature's budget hearings and budget sessions, Cruz expressed major concern over delays in financial reporting.
“Department directors need to ensure that financial information is provided in a timely manner to the Public Auditors,” said Sen. Joanne Brown, a co-sponsor of the bill. “This is the people’s money and this bill will provide a direct mechanism of accountability to ensure reporting compliance.”
Sen. Jesse Lujan, who also co-sponsored the bill, said the proposed penalty for delinquent officials sends a clear message. “ Timely financial reporting is not optional. There needs to be consequences for agencies failing to meet these critical deadlines,” Lujan said. “By implementing fines for these shortcomings, we can ensure that our tax dollars fund not just salaries but efficient performance. Transparency and accountability need to be the priority for the benefit of the public we serve.”
Taitague said the bill was consistent with other Guam laws that impose fines on agencies and entities such as the Bureau of Budget Management and Research for the submission of Consolidated Revenue and Expenditure Reports.
“Transparency and accountability measures should be encouraged and not vetoed if we truly want to call ourselves public servants,” Taitague said. “Being truthful and forthcoming shouldn’t be difficult. I urge my colleagues and the administration to pass Bill 213 without hesitation.”
Sens. William Parkinson, Chris Barnett, Sabina Perez, Frank Blas Jr. and Speaker Therese Terlaje also co-sponsored the bill.