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Respicio calls out administration

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Acting Speaker Rory Respicio is calling out the Calvo Administration saying they've been anything but transparent. During the legislature's weekly address Respicio said the Administration's "tales of transparency are really nothing more than political rhetoric. In reality our government is shrouded in dark secrecy like no other time before in the history of our island."  Respicio added that residents are being denied basic public information. GovGuam employees are scared to speak up and whistleblowers are retaliated against. Respicio added that truthfulness in accurate reporting is nearly non existent from some agencies especially when it comes to public finances.  As a result Respicio has introduced a resolution creating the Guam Legislative Freedom of Information Advisory Council. The group will be an advisory council in the Legislative Branch to encourage and facilitate compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. The council shall consist of 12 members including the attorney general of Guam, representatives of the media, the legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches of government as well as members of the general public. Within one month this council will be in place and will offer our people more access to their government. 

The governor's communications director Troy Torres called the acting speaker's claims baseless, have no merit and are not backed up by any facts. Torres adds transparency is the cornerstone value of the Calvo Tenorio Administration and any attempt by politicians to lie about this record will be met with a quick dose of the truth.  Adelup cited several reports from experts on financial transparency on what they had to say about Governor Calvo and his administration. When Standard & Poor's raised Guam's credit rating they wrote it reflects their view of the government's improved financial management practices "including improved transparency...  The government finance officers association awarded GovGuam a certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting in part because it met the criteria of demonstrating a "constructive spirit of full disclosure."  Torres said Respicio's claims  should be called what it transparently is: "the latest in a political attack against the governor. Transparently, it is done in an election year from a politician, who covets the power of the office, and not the duty the office possesses to serve the people." 


 

The Governor has just come under another verbal attack from the acting speaker.  This time, the allegation is that the Governor is not transparent. These allegations were made in the acting speaker's weekly radio address. We do not wish to engage in any back and forth dispute, especially during this holy season. The only thing we will present here is a defense of the Governor, backed up by facts.

 

The acting speaker's claims are baseless, have no merit, and are not backed up by any facts. Transparency is a cornerstone value of the Calvo Tenorio administration; any attempt by politicians to lie about this record will be met with a quick dose of the truth. This, of course, always will be backed by fact, data, and credible information.

 

While there is much we can say and show to defend the Governor's record on transparency, here is what the experts on financial transparency have to say about Governor Calvo and his administration:

 

Standard & Poors

Oct 17, 2013

Guam, the U.S. territory 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) west of Hawaii, had its rating raised to BB-from B+ by Standard & Poor's on signs of a strengthening financial position.

 

"The rating action reflects our view of the government's improved financial management practices, including improved transparency, stricter fiscal discipline and enhanced cash flow monitoring procedures and capabilities," Paul Dyson, a San Francisco-based S&P analyst, said today in a report.

 

Government Finance Officers Association

The Government Finance Officers Association awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting to GovGuam. The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition for government accounting and financial reporting. This honor was awarded to DOA for preparing the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for fiscal year 2012. Every governor has been mandated by the Organic Act since 1950 to submit a CAFR every year. GovGuam met this federal mandate for the first time in 63 years in 2013 under the leadership of Gov. Calvo.

 

According to the GFOA, the "CAFR has been judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program including demonstrating a constructive ‘spirit of full disclosure' to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the CAFR."

 

The CAFR prepared by DOA disclosed the government's finances for Fiscal Year 2012. The report includes audited financials, including balance sheets, statements of revenues and expenditures, statements of cash receipts and disbursements, transfers in and out from accounts, etc. This is the information senators need to make informed policy decisions that consider the government's financial condition. It also is a useful report for the public to use to judge the administration's management practices using real data.

 

BLOOMBERG

Feb 25, 2014

Puerto Rico and Guam, two U.S. territories whose debt is tax-exempt nationwide, are navigating uncharted waters.

 

The island's CAFR earned it a "Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting" from the Government Finance Officers Association, said Jeffrey Esser, the group's executive director in Chicago. It was the only territory to get the award for 2012 reporting, he said in an interview. Puerto Rico last received the distinction in 2007.

 

"It shows increased professionalism in a case like Guam," Esser said. "It shows that the financial information they produced is high-quality, and it can be relied on. It's really hard work, especially for the first time."

 

Indeed, in the latest report to the Attorney General on the administration's compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, all but three FOIA requests were granted with responses. The three that went without response were given reasons as defined in 5 GCA §10108. If Sen. Respicio has an issue with that, then perhaps he, as a lawmaker, should revisit that law.

 

Other examples of unprecedented efforts toward transparency:

-       January 2011 disclosure of the cash- and financial-position of the government of Guam to the public via the media. This eventually led to the Legislature bowing to public demand for their cooperation on the Governor's fiscal policies.

-       These fiscal policies included the eventual payment of tax refunds via debt refinancing, where the debt burden was moved from the people to the bank. This happened despite Sen. Rory Respicio insisting that he'd rather "owe the people than the bank." Click here to view this statement from the Senator.

-       February 6, 2011 directive from the Governor's COS to all employees removing all existing gag orders at the time, reinforcing employees' rights to speak to the media, directing the free flow of public information, etc.

-       Directive from the Governor to the police department to reopen the Blue House case and to report findings as quickly as possible to the public.

-       Unprecedented, near-on-demand access reporters have to the Governor on any issue they wish to speak with him about.

-       Unprecedented releases of information on the operations, projects, programs, and goings-on of your government. This ranges from:

o   Several news releases daily

o   Three weekly columns in the island's newspapers from the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Islandwide Beautification Task Force

o   Two weekly and one biweekly talk show appearance by the Lieutenant Governor, his wife, or the IBTF on their efforts

o   One weekly broadcast address to the people from the Governor

o   One weekly segment by the Governor's Communications Office on NewsTalk K57's The Big Show with Travis Coffman on a range of topics in the government

o   A Customer Service Hotline dedicated to taking residents' complaints and suggestions, then fixing the problems

o   A weekly newsletter

o   A 24-hour channel

o   On-demand access to the Governor's senior staff and Cabinet to talk radio and journalist questions

o   Constant engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, and phone

 

Finally, it should be noted that Governor Calvo, in his last year as a senator, introduced legislation that would have cut the number of days the government had to respond to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act. The legislative majority did not allow the bill to be placed on session agenda, and never again took up the measure.

 

It should also be noted that the person making these accusations against Gov. Calvo is the same person who adjusted pay for senators in December 2010 and told no one until the media uncovered the truth months later. This senator, along with some of his colleagues, have refused to roll back the pay raise each and every time they are confronted with this question.

 

The additional allegation from the acting speaker that whistleblowers are retaliated against also is baseless. There is not a single instance we are aware of. We have constantly encouraged employees to speak up about any wrong doing that has occurred. Employees have spoken up several times, leading to better service and the correction of misunderstandings.

 

Transparency, though it can always be better, is more alive and healthy today than it has ever been. It is not merely a buzzword for Governor Calvo. It is not something he measures by the letter of the law. This is a value he holds in every action he takes and every decision he makes.

 

This should be called what it transparently is: the latest in a political attack against the Governor. Transparently, it is done in an election year from a politician, who covets the power of the office, and not the duty the office possesses to serve the people.

 

We welcome any effort by sincere people to improve transparency and access to the people's government. But we will not waste any more time entertaining another needless assault on the character of the administration from a politician slinging mud… especially when the facts speak for themselves.

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