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With great swiping privilege comes great responsibility

Updated: Feb 4


By Ron Rocky Coloma


 Officials of the Guam Power Authority and the Guam Waterworks Authority charged their corporate credit cards for personal travel expenses and other unauthorized procurements, resulting in $71,000 of questioned costs. The Guam Visitors Bureau charged its corporate credit card for the dinner of seven agency officials’ spouses during an off-island trip.

Benjamin Cruz

Government-issued credit cards are prone to abuses, according to the Office of Public Accountability, which began a series of reviews of the government of Guam's credit card uses and travel expenses.


"There's a pressing need for continuous education about the responsibilities and limitations associated with these cards," Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz said.


In a report released last month, OPA noted the three agencies’ casual disposition toward credit card use, with officials making purchases that violated the procurement laws and their own policies.


The extensive audits have brought to light the urgent need for policy updates, risk mitigation and enhanced oversight on GovGuam's use of credit cards. These findings highlight the delicate balance between operational efficiency and financial integrity, underscoring the challenges faced in maintaining transparency and accountability in government expenditures. 


The auditor's recommendations, aimed at tightening controls and ensuring compliance with Guam procurement law and regulations, represent a pivotal step toward fostering a culture of responsible financial stewardship within GovGuam.


Cruz emphasized the critical role of policy and procedural adherence. "The use of government-issued credit cards is regulated by the government entity's policy and procedures," he said. 


He underscored the need for these policies to be "regularly updated to keep up with the changing times," especially considering the prevalent use of credit cards. These updates are vital to ensure that practices align with applicable laws and regulations.


Highlighting the primary risks associated with issuing credit cards to government officials and employees, Cruz pointed out the inherent risk of abuse. "The audit of government credit and debit cards was included in our 2023 annual audit plan due to this inherent risk," he said. 


These risks significantly impact government accountability and financial integrity. He reminded that the use of these cards "does not exempt entities from compliance with the Guam procurement law and regulations," and that cardholders must exercise due care in transactions.


To mitigate these risks and enhance the management of government-issued credit cards, Cruz suggested several key measures. The audits recommended that "policies be updated, aligned with applicable law and regulations and enforced." 


He emphasized the importance of purchasing goods and services through the appropriate procurement methods. These recommendations aim at strengthening the framework within which these financial tools are used, ensuring transparency and accountability.


The OPA report delves deeper into the nuances of managing government-issued credit cards.


Cruz stressed the importance of enhanced oversight and regular training for cardholders and supervisors. 


He suggested that regular workshops and updated guidelines could significantly reduce instances of misuse and ensure that all cardholders are aware of their obligations.


Another critical aspect highlighted in the audits is the importance of transparency. "Transparency in the use of government-issued credit cards is fundamental to maintaining public trust," Cruz said. 


He recommended the establishment of a public database where credit card transactions are logged and made accessible for public scrutiny. This move would not only deter misuse but also reinforce GovGuam's commitment to transparency.


The OPA also recommends a more robust internal auditing process."Regular audits and compliance checks should be institutionalized to promptly identify and rectify any deviations from the set policies," Cruz said. 


Such measures would not only detect policy violations but also serve as a deterrent for potential misuse.


Cruz also touched upon the role of technology in enhancing the management of these credit cards. Implementing modern financial software could provide real-time monitoring and reporting capabilities, making it easier to track and manage expenditures.  "Technology can be a powerful ally in ensuring fiscal responsibility," he said.


Cruz reiterated the importance of these measures in safeguarding GovGuam's financial integrity.  "The goal is not just to prevent misuse, but also to create an environment where ethical use of resources is the norm," he said.


The OPA’s thorough examination and subsequent recommendations offer a roadmap for GovGuam to enhance its financial practices. By embracing these changes, GovGuam can ensure that its financial resources are managed effectively, transparently and in the best interest of the public.


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