Leaders discuss DOE's critical condition - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Leaders discuss DOE's critical condition

by Michele Catahay

With the threat of losing federal money, the governor and speaker participated in a conference call with the U.S. Department of Education this morning.  Governor Felix Camacho says he's alarmed, but not surprised with the recent letter from the feds on the agency's inability to follow through with its Corrective Action Plan.

The governor and Speaker Judi Won Pat participated in a conference call with USDOE Risk Management Director Phil Maestri this morning.  The feds could potentially issue sanctions to doe and have a third-party administrator oversee federal funds in the department.

While Maestri questions the governor's role in overseeing DOE, the governor responded.  "The AG's opinion basically says I have no authority. What have I done in my time in the last seven years has been focused on building facilities for them and helping over the summers to get them ready for schools and every time an emergency has come up to work with the Legislature to get them funding, when they're short."

The governor once again stressed the need for his involvement in helping DOE get a handle on its managing its finances, but the chief executive says the current law prohibits him from stepping in.  "Unless there's a change in the law that grants the administration to help in the areas of accounting, the areas of budget, in the areas of procurement, supply. Those are the core areas," he told KUAM News.

In the letter sent two days ago, the feds say doe failed to make corrections and have yet to show management stability.  It also failed to implement recommendations noted in the Evergreen Solutions management and curriculum audit, which could save the department millions of dollars.  

The governor says he doesn't have much confidence in DOE because they lack training and proper structure that cannot be changed overnight.  He explained, "So I've taken a position: I agree. First of all, we need to protect the federal grants that are coming into the system and ensure it's not taken away from the system. How do we do that? By allowing a third party admin to come in and manage the federal funds."

In the meantime, Won Pat says this is definitely a wakeup call for DOE to start making corrections, like they were supposed to as recommended by the federal counterpart.  "They need to start training their people. They need to start tracking their expenditures. They need to document their expenditures and see how the cash flows," she shared.

Won Pat says she was supposed to meet with the DOE management team today, but the meeting was postponed due to inclement weather. In the interim, she says she hopes to introduce a bill that would create a financial management council that would help DOE monitor its expenditures in hopes to get them off the high-risk status.

The Guam Education Policy Board meanwhile was scheduled to meet this evening, but the meeting was cancelled and postponed until October 7.

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