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CLTC reveals audit findings

by Janjeera Hail

Guam - It's no secret the Chamorro Land Trust Commission needs help and today, in letters to the governor and Senator Ben Pangelinan, CLTC director Jess Garcia asked for it.  While the agency may have been established with the best intentions, nearly 15 years after its inception, the CLTC still does not have a complete inventory of its land holdings.

This has created a problem that affects the CLTC, its leaseholders, and the safety of our island.  In letters sent out today to Governor Felix Camacho and Land Oversight Committee chairman Pangelinan, and Garcia are asking for help to tackle the issues that have plagued the CLTC for more than a decade.  

Said Garcia, "We have people out there on Chamorro Land Trust properties that are squatters. We have people out there without any proper leases or they have a lease and they don't know exactly where they're out. Stuff like that is what I'm trying to correct."

The CLTC mandates that leases be surveyed four times a year, but for years no inspections occurred, meaning a significant loss of income for the CLTC because of land taxes that were never assessed. Only in the last year has the CLTC, in a multi-agency assessment team with UOG and the Department of Agriculture, begun the daunting task of surveying the hundreds of leases. And the results were troubling, not just for lease holders, but for our entire community.

"The biggest thing is the water lens. Up north, a lot of these buildings up there do not have proper building permits. I don't want Chamorro Land Trust to be one of the main contributing agencies to contaminating the water lens," said Garcia.

In addition to asking for a three-year memorandum of agreement to continue the work of the assessment team, in his letters, Garcia calls on the governor to issue an executive order to create a multi-agency advisory group that would be charged with developing protocols on everything from assessment, to registration, to inventory, to building codes, and $850,000 to hire regular trained staff to ensure the continued inspections.

In the meantime, the CLTC is making strides to clean up the agency. Dr. Bob Barber is a member of the assessment team and says notices of violations may be sent out as soon as this week to leaseholders whose land has been surveyed, outlining where they're in violation, but also how they can come into compliance.  "They're being prepared right now as we speak. They'll probably be going out this week.   We're preparing them and them sending them to the Chamorro Land Trust. They'll come out of the Chamorro Land Trust office," he said.

While Garcia's letters outlined a path, these problems are more than a decade in the making, and it'll be no quick fix. Garcia is also asking the Legislature to hold a public hearing on the issue; Senator Pangelinan responded by saying it would be a good opportunity to add clarity to the issues and address some of the legislature's concerns as well.

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