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THF utility payments increase

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THE Office of Public Accountability yesterday released its latest audit of the Territorial Highway Fund, saying the Department of Public Works paid $533,000 in utility costs for the Manuel Guerrero Building, which houses the Department of Administration and the Guam Department of Education; Government House; and Adelup.

In Fiscal Year 2010, the OPA noted that THF also paid for utility costs for the same facilities. But in that audit, only $82,000 was spent, indicating a 550 percent increase over the two audits.

But while DPW “certified” costs totaling $533,000 to pay for the government buildings’ utility costs, the department says it had no control over how funds were allocated.

DPW Director Joanne Brown said while her department may authorize these payments, it is beyond her control because Public Law 30-196 mandates that a “cost pool” among agencies pay for certain utility costs out of the THF.

“They’re pointing the finger at us, but this is an action taken by the Legislature,” Brown said. “When we do our budget for the Legislature, we identify the anticipated obligation. These are estimated costs, but it is not our decision that those funds for these accounts be used,” she said.

According to the audit, $154,000 was spent to pay for utilities at the DOA/GDOE building for two service addresses; $164,000 was spent on Government House; and $215,000 was spent on the Governor’s Office, or Adelup.

Trickle down

“I’m not in support of this because my desire is to make sure what little highway fund money we actually get trickles down to highway resources. The problem and the challenge the department has is that we are not provided adequate funding in other categories and these funds are taken and used to cover that,” Brown said.

“The continued bleeding of the Highway Fund for other unrelated purposes, including a number of legislation that fund activities totally outside the scope of highway maintenance totally unrelated to DPW’s operation, is becoming a common practice because it’s a revenue source, but not a source that’s going where it’s sorely needed,” she added.

Brown said she has raised the same concerns when the FY2010 audit came out last April. In the meantime, Brown is hopeful that she will again be able to raise these issues. She has called on lawmakers to include DPW in its budget hearings.

“It’s not like I’m volunteering and agreeing, ‘Yes, let’s transfer this money and use it for paying this power bill.’ I think it’s a consequence that needs to be addressed separately,” Brown said.

Fees

Another deficiency the OPA noted was an “apparent lack of internal control” over the maintenance of record-keeping at the Department of Revenue and Taxation. OPA said of the 45 items it tested in the license fees and permit revenues, it found five discrepancies.

Two items, totaling $101 for vehicle registration fees, were not supported with a required Motor Vehicle Registration Form; and three items for driver’s license fees, totaling $65, were not supported with a driver’s license application form.

The THF’s major source of revenue is from liquid fuel taxes and registration and license fee taxes, the OPA report states. THF collects 11 cents for every gallon of gasoline, and 10 cents for every gallon of diesel fuel.

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