Sen. James Moylan today filed a resolution proposing to amend the 35th Guam Legislature's standing rules to require a travel justification report whenever any member or staff of the legislature travels off-island for official business using legislative fund.
According to a travel statement posted on the 35th Guam Legislature's website, a total of $66,781.81 was expended between February and October of 2019 on off-island travels by members and staff of the 35th Guam Legislature.
“Can a trip be avoided by using alternative technological means? Can discussions with federal entities take place electronically or telephonically?" Moyan asked. "Should travelers be required to submit receipts even if it isn’t required? When we have dilapidated schools and a hospital, a rising crime and a drug epidemic, and when the public pools are constantly closing, I believe these questions need to be carefully considered.”
The present policy duplicates the government of Guam’s general policy, where only travel documents are required for submittal, and receipts for other expenses are only needed for reimbursements of expenses, or if one expended above their issued per diem. However, what is not required is further justification in how the trip benefits the island, or if alternative technological means were considered.
Under Resolution 305-35, a travel justification report would contain the following details:
1. The reason(s) why the individual was required to travel at the government’s expense.
2. The benefit that this travel shall provide for the island.
3. Justification if the trip could have been avoided by the usage of other technological means.
4. A detailed report of all the expenses incurred during the trip.
5. A detailed report outlining all official activities the traveler engaged in during the trip.
“I am not opposed to official travel, as I believe it is much needed at times especially if we are seeking monetary benefits for our island. But my belief is that if we are using taxpayer dollars on these travels, then we need to provide the community some justification in how and why we were spending these thousands of dollars,” Moylan said.
Resolution 305-35 requires that any traveller has no more than five days upon return to submit their report, and such reports should be accessible for the public. Failure to submit this within the timeline would result in the individual not getting compensated for the days away.
The measure further requires that effective date for this policy be retroactive to Jan. 7, 2019, when the 35th Guam Legislature first took their oath of office.
On July 3, 2019, Moylan introduced a bill proposing to modernize the Government Travel Law. According to the Guam Legislatures website, the legislation has yet to be referred to its appropriate committee.
“I have not taken a trip on government dime, however during my tenure in the private sector, when we traveled on official business, we were required to submit detailed reports, receipts, and even provide a justification on what benefits would arise from the travel," Moylan said. "When we are spending taxpayer dollars, I don’t see why we can’t do the same in the Guam Legislature. Transparency is critical, and the people have the right to know what benefits to expect when their elected representatives travel of public dime."
Click here to subscribe to our digital edition