Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (July 28) - In the wake of the dismissal of criminal charges against former Governor Carl Gutierrez and former Government of Guam Retirement Fund Director John Rios, the Retirement Fund is planning a management review.

Gutierrez and Rios were indicted on charges of making changes to the former governor's retirement status to boost his retirement annuity by more than US$30,000 a year.

Board Chairman Joe T. San Agustin said the agency may have to alter current administrative practices and that changes to retirement laws may also be needed. "We need to close administrative loopholes," he said. "If necessary, legislation needs to be done to correct it; otherwise you've got a fund that is so loose, there's no stability, no continuity at all."

San Agustin is right on the money. Making the necessary fixes to the system must be a top priority for Retirement Fund officials. If every government of Guam employee or retiree is allowed to make retroactive changes to their retirement plans that will result in more money being paid out, it would threaten the very viability of the Retirement Fund. We can't afford any level of destabilization.

That's why it's critical for retirees - and all GovGuam employees, for that matter - to get behind the effort to close the loopholes. It is their retirement annuities that will be affected. Failure to address the existing shortfalls in the system can and will have a direct impact on their livelihoods after retirement.

These fixes can't be put off. The key is quick but deliberate and comprehensive action -- no foot-dragging.

To this end, the 28th Guam Legislature needs to be supportive and responsive to the needs of the Retirement Fund. If new laws or adaptations to existing laws are needed, then senators must work with Retirement Fund officials to write the legislation and then push it through the system expeditiously.

The key here is to ensure the stability of the Retirement Fund by eliminating gaps that allow for exploitation of the system.

July 29, 2005

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