By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The government of Guam’s latest report covering the June expenditures of American Rescue Plan funds included vague items listed as “miscellaneous,” raising concerns among senators.
During the reporting period, GovGuam spent $73 million of the remaining balance from the $586.9 million in ARP funds Guam received in 2021.
“While I’m appreciative of the administration following the law, I encourage them to be more forthcoming with the ‘miscellaneous’ allocations and expenditures,” Sen. Telo Taitague said.
The ARP was a federal program established to assist American communities in their Covid-19 response and recovery efforts.
GovGuam’s ARP report shows the Department of Land Management has more than $400,000 in unspent miscellaneous allocations, while the Chamorro Land Trust Commission has nearly $700,000 in unspent miscellaneous allocations.
“I know that these reports are subject to the whims of those who prepare them, but time is running out,” Taitague said. “Every dollar counts and we have a right to know what these funds are for, and when they will be spent as we work to pass a conservative budget. Transparency and communication will ensure the people of Guam don’t lose out on millions because of preventable errors.”
The report indicated that some agencies were unable to spend their allocations. The local government is obligated to return federal funds that remained unused by 2024.
“Considering the time constraints on these funds, I think we need to start preparing alternative plans so that we don’t lose out on the millions of dollars left in these accounts,” Taitague said.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero initially set aside $300 million of the ARP funds for building a new hospital on a defense property in Mangilao. The project, however, hit a snag due to controversies related to the now-abandoned lease of the property.
“With no clear direction on a new hospital facility, it’s time to consider what happens next with the $160 million remaining in ARPA funds for a new GMH,” Taitague said.
Sen. Chris Barnett noted that current officials previously criticized prior administrations for returning federal funds that were not spent on time.
“I'm worried that it looks like we are having trouble spending ARP funds. Given the shelf life attached to these monies and the many challenges facing our community, I don't know why we aren't using these funds to raise the standard of government service to our people,” Barnett said.
“As far as transparency goes, although the report meets mandates put forth by the legislature, there is nothing that prevents the Leon Guerrero/Tenorio administration from going above and beyond in providing more detailed documentation," Barnett said.
"Our people will have a hard time making sense of this report and all of its overboard terms for expenditures like ‘miscellaneous’ and ‘contracts’ and I doubt they have the time to go to the Department of Administration to access the AS400 or send a FOIA request like their senators have to do.”