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Expense equals controversy for GEC

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Not only can potential candidates not file to run for public office right now, but also there's a possibility that come September's Primary Election for Decision 2010, the Guam Election Commission may be left hand counting the ballots, meaning it could be several long hours before the island can expect the results.

It was during today's budget hearing before the Committee on Appropriations, Guam Election Commission Executive Director John Blas revealed things aren't going as smooth as they should be at this point in preparations for Decision 2010.  "It's an agreement where it's embedded that there will be an annual license fee of x-amount of dollars that will be paid for I believe it's a program that's used for tabulating," he said.

It all goes back to Decision 2008. According to Blas, he received a invoice just prior to March's Special Election from their vendor Electronic Systems & Software, stating the agency owes about $140,000 for services rendered during the Decision 2010 such as tech support and programming work.  The debt also included $75,000 owed just for annual software license fees owed from 2008 to the present year.

According to Blas the issue surrounding an annual license fee was news to him, saying, "Throughout my discussion with the vendor I'm disputing it because in the first place I wasn't aware that the GEC has this has to pay this annual licensing fee."

According to Blas, the only other individual who would have known about this agreement their information technology manager, Tony Elliott, left the agency back in 2008. The chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Senator Ben Pangelinan asked whether the board or legal counsel new about the agreement.

"It appears as it the previous director had authority to purchase equipment and enter into agreements; it's possible without the concurrence without board or review by legal counsel," he said.

Yet evidently, there is hope.  Blas told KUAM News this afternoon that he did speak with ES&S today and they are waiting for final approval from the company's chief financial officer to agree that it will forgo payment until October when the new fiscal year starts, meaning the GEC will be able to receive the on-site tech report for the use of the tabulation machines.  It's help Blas maintains will definitely be needed as the GEC doesn't have an IT staffer on board.  Blas says worse case scenario if the Legislature doesn't immediately provide the $140,000 to settle the debt, come the September primary, the Guam Election Commission will be left hand-counting ballots.

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