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DOE behind in vendor payments

by Michele Catahay

Guam - While the Department of Education waits to hear back from the feds on whether it could use carry-over funds to cover federal programs, it's apparent that the agency is struggling to stay afloat. As such, DOE is now behind in vendor payments.

The largest agency in the Government of Guam has to juggle around its own funds to ensure programs are operating and employees are getting paid. Finance and Administrative Services Deputy Superintendent Taling Taitano says DOE has been covering $4,000,000 for the months of November through January from its budget to keep operations going.

DOE is waiting to hear back from the U.S. Department of Education on whether it could draw down carryover funds. Because of this, Taitano says they've put off implementing certain projects and juggling account payables, as she said, "A majority of that is salaries. There are some consultant contracts that we've been required to pay to keep our programs going that were encumbered pervious to the special conditions. It will be nice to get some resolution to this matter."

DOE sent a letter to its federal counterpart last Friday and officials are waiting to get feedback. If USDOE agrees on the special conditions, those funds can be replenished. Taitano couldn't outline a list of vendors affected by the cash shortage, only saying they're making partial payments to the bigger contracts to include payments to the Guam Power Authority.

"Well, the Power Authority is very adamant about getting paid on time and they've said they would cut us off if we don't pay them, so they tend to be at the top of our list in getting paid," she added.

DOE is in a tough financial position since the Bureau of Budget & Management Research doesn't have the extra cash to cover the shortfall. Taitano does admit that if payments aren't made to vendors, the worst-case scenario would be for companies to stop services to them, saying, "Obviously, the longer we take to pay them, the harder it is for them to carry our receivables or payables and so at some point, it would suspect there will be some problems if this isn't resolved soon."

With payday just around the corner, Taitano says she will be working with the Department of Administration to ensure they're not short this week and that employees get their paychecks.

In the meantime, Committee Chair on Education Speaker Judi Won Pat says her office will be working with DOE and the Office of Finance & Budget to talk about the financial crisis at DOE.  "It's unfortunate that is actually the case because we've always heard from vendors and we cannot function without those services, those contractual services," she said.

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