The government of Guam has spent a total of $78 million on legal services from 2013 to 2018, according to the Office of Public Accountability’s analysis.
The audit found that 21 GovGuam entities — including autonomous and semi-autonomous agencies and public corporations — incurred $32.6 million in legal services contracted to private firms, with the Guam International Airport Authority leading the pack with bills hitting $17.8 million during the audit period.
“Although certain GovGuam entities require special counsel to handle particular cases, we noted that it is cost effective to hire in-house attorneys,” Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz said in a report released Monday. “While each GovGuam entity identifies its needs for legal services, we recommended these entities perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it is more feasible to employ government attorneys versus contracting for legal services.”
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Along with GIAA, other entities among the top five spenders included the Port Authority of Guam, Guam Memorial Hospital Authority, Department of Public Health and Social Services, and Guam Waterworks Authority.
OPA said GIAA responded with a pledge to perform the cost-benefit analysis and present the result to GIAA board of directors.
GIAA initially paid $17.8 million to four law firms, however, they were reimbursed $13.5 million through a written agreement for an ongoing case bringing their cost to $4.3 million, OPA said.
Locked in a number of litigations such as the Guam YTK Corp. case that entailed a $14 million arbitration award as well as the personnel action involving the dismissal of seven employees in 2013, the Port Authority maintained one law firm with a $5.4 million price tag.Prior to the issuance of this report, OPA said, PAG already hired an in-house attorney effective August 2019.
GMH paid $1.4 million to two law firms. DPHSS hired two law firms and paid $1.3 million, while GWA spent $1.2 million on four law firms.
Seven GovGuam entities spent $43.8 million on government-hired attorneys; and
34 GovGuam entities utilized Office of the Attorney General for legal services and six reimbursed $1.6 million.
Five GovGuam entities employed attorneys and contracted legal services.