Recycling Revolving Fund audit will be dissected
The Guam Environmental Protection Agency's board of directors is scheduled to meet in the coming week and one of the items on the agenda to discuss is the findings of a recent audit of the Recycling Revolving Fund recently released by the Guam Office of Public Accountability.
It was at the request of Senator Rory Respicio that the OPA conducted an audit of the Recycling Revolving Fund, which the Guam EPA administers. Senator Respicio says he grew concerned after learning the fund was used for travel, and expense he believes is not authorized by law. The senator said, "When I learned that the Guam Environmental Protection Agency used the Recycling Revolving Fund for off-island travel for a conference, I asked the public auditor to conduct an audit only to determine if those expenses were consistent with the law."
He says that the bulk of the expenditures were used for travel. The results of the audit were released in July and as we reported it revealed that the Guam EPA had yet to promulgate the rules and regulations required at the inception of the law in 2005. This means that the agency was spending money from the special fund without having rules and regulations in place. According to the OPA's report a total of $11.1 million was transferred out of the RRF between Fiscal Years 2010 and 2014.
"In my conversations with the public auditor and her staff their follow up audit they committed to me is that there are going to track the amount of money that has been taken out of the recycling revolving fund I think that even a bigger question to have to answer," he added.
While Guam EPA agreed with the OPA that they need to promulgate the rules and regulations in a July 28 letter to the OPA, deputy administrator Yvette Cruz stated, "We are concerned as to the constantly changing direction of this audit report and we believe that since our administration of the RRF in 2011, the fund has only been used in the best interest of the territory and in accordance with the intent of the law. We will continue to implement the RRF law in the best interest of our community." Senator Respicio stresses that the audit however is in no way an indictment of Guam EPA administrator Eric Palacios or his staff.
Instead, Respicio is requesting that if the expenditures were, in fact, spent in accordance with the law that the rules and regulations reflect instances such as travel. "I want to be clear that I don't think the results of the audit is an indictment of the Guam Environmental Protection Agency I just think that what the public auditor is suggesting should really be of concern to those individuals at EPA, particularly the administrator and that they have to submit the rules and regs."
Senator Respicio says the rules and regulations are important to eliminate any ambiguity so that issues such as travel expenditures are not questioned, noting, "One can argue the benefits of those participations and that was not my focus my focus was to ask the public auditor if those expenditures were appropriate."
As a result of the lack of rules and regulations the OPA recommended that the Guam EPA place a moratorium on all RRF spending until the law is followed. Respicio says that Palacios should heed the recommendation from the OPA as the OPA will take a deeper look into the spending.
The Guam EPA's board meeting is scheduled for the 20th at 4pm.