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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (April 4, 2002 – Pacific Daily News)---The government of Guam needs to do a better job of tracking its finances and collecting money it is owed, according to a March report by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Improvements also need to be made in government procurement practices and employee development, the report states.

The report states GovGuam career service positions should not be filled by "political appointments that destroy the credibility of the personnel merit system."

"Some of these recommendations will require financial resources and technical expertise that may be beyond the current capacities of the government of Guam," the report by the Office of Inspector General states.

"In those cases, the Office of Insular Affairs and other federal grantor agencies should be approached about the possibility of providing appropriate financial and/or technical assistance."

One of the most significant problems, the report states, is the failure of GovGuam's Oracle-based computerized financial management system.

The multimillion-dollar system has not worked properly since it was first installed in late 1999, in anticipation of the Y2K computer problem.

"As a result, the government has not been able to produce a comprehensive operating budget for the current fiscal year and has had to fall back on its old accounting system in order to provide even a modicum of accountability over revenues and expenditures," the report states.

Guam's tax laws must be vigorously enforced, taxes must be collected and tax administration functions should be computerized, the report states.

The Guam Legislature stated similar concerns, and senators passed a law last month that requires vigorous collection of at least $15 million in delinquent tax payments.

All GovGuam agencies that collect money must maintain up-to-date records on how much money they are owed and should aggressively collect what is owed, the report states.

The report also recommends Guam review its tax laws to ensure tax breaks are not given to businesses that would have established here anyway.

The report also addresses management challenges in other insular areas, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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