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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Apr. 7) - After losing money for years, the Port Authority of Guam finished in the black for the second year in a row, despite a slight decline in business last fiscal year, according to an audit report released yesterday by the public auditor's office.

The port's fiscal 2004 financial audit was prepared by Deloitte & Touche, which reported the port had $1.9 million in net assets at the end of that fiscal year.

The port had revenues of about $26.2 million during fiscal 2004 and handled 2.1 million tons of revenue cargo. That was $2.4 million less than fiscal 2003 revenues, according to the report, when the port handled 2.2 million tons of revenue cargo.

"Despite the decline in revenue, the port achieved a profit mainly due to aggressive cost-cutting measures of its operating expenses from $27.1 million in fiscal 2003 to $24.1 million in fiscal 2004, or by $3 million," according to a written statement from the public auditor's office.

"A lot of that (cash) is tied up," port General Manager Joe Mesa said yesterday. "We have $8.3 (million) for typhoon and earthquake damage that we are repairing... I don't want anybody to raid our fund."

Mesa said the savings are the result of several small changes the port employees have made that have added up.

"Whatever we make is how we get paid here. If we don't make anything, the employees don't get paid, and I think that's a real motivating factor for them," Mesa said.

The audit report noted a decline in overall port employment, from 356 workers to 331. That was due largely to retirement or employees leaving island for jobs elsewhere, Mesa said.

"I can only say that the port was used as a dumping ground for political favoritism," he said.

Big changes are ahead for the port, which could change its finances.

The port has issued a request for proposals to privatize most of the port operations by taking on a terminal operator.

In addition to loading and unloading cargo, the terminal operator would maintain the commercial port, its machinery, vehicles, tools and equipment. It would keep the existing employees, who would continue to be government workers.

April 8, 2005

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