Retirement Fund spends $32K on 18 off-island trips - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Retirement Fund spends $32K on 18 off-island trips

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The Government of Guam Retirement Fund has been on the defensive this past week - first defending its investment record after Governor Eddie Calvo criticized the rate of return on investments in the last few years, and now tens of thousands of dollars spent on travel in the last 18 months.

"As a trustee, they each basically hold fiduciary responsibilities and roles," expressed Retirement Fund director Paula Blas. She noted that because of their responsibilities, she and trustees attend off-island training courses to better equip them for decisions they make on behalf of thousands of public sector retirees and employees.

"A lot of it is knowledge," she continued. "They're in a decision making capacity the more knowledge and up to date information that they get, I guess it keeps them informed enough to make the right decisions."

And in the last 18 months, five trustees and Blas have taken 18 trips off-island. Information submitted in response to KUAM's Freedom of Information Act request shows that the travel cost upwards of $32,000. Private sector representative and board of trustee Antolina Leon Guerrero took four trips since April of last year attending conferences in Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Francisco, and san diego.

Director Blas took five weeklong trips to various conferences in Las Vegas, Albuquerque, New Orleans, San Francisco and Vancouver.  Elected retiree trustee and board vice chairman Wilfred Leon Guerrero took four trips off-island - travel records show that Leon Guerrero attended a three-day conference in Las Vegas, but spent 40 days traveling.

He attended another three-day conference in Half-Moon Bay in September of last year, but traveled for 26 days. In October of last year he attended a two-day conference in Las Vegas but traveled for 15 days. And in February, Leon Guerrero spent 12 days traveling and spent three of the days at a conference in Orlando.

Elected active member and trustee George Santos took three trips. He traveled for eight days to attend a four-day conference on health benefit plan basics and choice-based benefits in Brookfield, Wisconsin. He also attended the conferences in New Orleans and Vancouver.

Rosalia Bordallo traveled for ten days to attend a four-day conference last September in Philadelphia and private sector representative and board treasurer Gerard Cruz spent five days in Manila to attend the Accredited Investment Fiduciary Training Program and another conference on Pacific Region investment in Manila.

The grand total for the 18 trips? $32,315. And according to Blas, the travel was beneficial and worth every penny.

"As a matter of fact, the networking within our peers is very, very beneficial to the Fund. We get to see some of the programs that are actually set-up, what works and what doesn't work, what we can actually morph together, a mix of something that may work for the Fund," she said, "because it isn't one shoe that fits all the time."

While board members and management travel off-island to participate in education and training, the Retirement Fund also spends more than an estimated $310,000 every year to pay consultants who make the investment decisions for the Defined Benefits and Defined Contribution Plans.

Blas added, "None of the decisions that the board actually makes is not without the advice of our consultants." She also defends the investment record, saying the Fund's annualized rate of return has been 4.1%.

"It places us in the top 15% of our us public pension plans. That means we're in the good top 15 percent," Blas stated.

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