Port Authority managers battle a sinking ship at the Legislature - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Port Authority managers battle a sinking ship at the Legislature

The Port Authority of Guam's master plan for its $270 million expansion is proving to be an extremely tough sell to lawmakers. Agency management had hoped to garner the approval before the end of the week. The PAG has a September 15 deadline to submit an application for $50 million in ARRA funding that they contend is contingent upon the legislature's approval of the master plan. But that approval may not happen, as senators raised concern after concern today, calling for resignations and more transparency.

Details of what the Port is spending millions of dollars on raised red flags among lawmakers today. "This whole thing is ludicrous - it's like 110 hours to travel to Asia. To estimate the cost of the purchase it's going to take 25 manhours to do that," chastised Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz.

The Port Authority is paying close to a quarter-million dollars for a consultant to conduct research for the availability of a used crane and travel to Europe, North America and Asia. Task orders totaling more than $4.5 million had lawmakers jumping ship on the approval of the agency's master plan.

"I cannot believe that you would present to your board a task order with 1,300 hours of work for $237,000. And sit there and say that you should keep your position at the port," Cruz added. Speaker Judi Won Pat added, "I'm totally appalled to see that you had to pay someone to go and participate in the industry forum you paid $34,000 to attend the forum."

It's obvious senators are reluctant to approve Bill 178 as they continue to question whether the Port violated procurement rules and regulations by creating 27 task orders for its consultant. Port board chairman Monte Mesa and agency general manager Glenn Leon Guerrero said, respectively, "I think the $34,000 that you're referring is justified. We are looking for $200 million here and in the scope of things this is a small investment to ensure hat you're asking us to do to again ensure that we are prudent, transparent, accountable and definitely are credible," and "All these task orders are essential they're needed. In my opinion, Task Order 12 is essential but that's not my decision."

Mesa added, "We are being very transparent. We are very credibility with this port strong team behind me and beside me and we are accountable and we will be accountable."

With the questionable expenses, the master plan is going to be a tough sell for Port officials. "I'm concerned about making a financial commitment on behalf of the people of Guam without proper justification," noted Senator Judi Guthertz. Fellow Democrat Matt Rector stated, "How we can approve a contract for $400,000 and it turns into a $4 million contract without going through the procurement process is amazing to me."

Port officials defended their actions saying the work was put out for bid in the original master plan, with Rector saying, "It doesn't seem to me proper in any way shape or form that we can write 4.3 million worth of checks without any accountability or any procurement process."

Lawmakers like the speaker however were concerned that a request for proposal was not put out for each specific task order but instead for the Port's entire master plan. Mesa said, "That's not entirely true statement. Won pat well that came from your manager so you guys may not be communicating. Maybe we should put both of you in a separate room and then we'll figure out how we're going to decipher the truth."

Vice-Speaker Cruz said, "All these decisions that seem to be ill conceived is there going to be a series of resignations to clean this up." "I respectfully disagree," Mesa replied.

Lawmakers spent the remainder of the day going through other task orders that they will continue to question when session resumes on Friday morning.
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