Pacific Daily News HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Oct. 12) - A report released by the Office of the Public Auditor Wednesday showed that the government of Guam needs to better define what constitutes an "emergency" and thus merits emergency spending. Failure to do so thus far has led to increasing the government deficit.

A clear instance of emergency spending is in the wake of a natural disaster, such as a typhoon or earthquake. Natural disasters can't be planned for and yet when they strike, money must be spent for cleanup, repairs and the like.

According to the audit, the government spent US$3.1 million from 2003 to 2005 on emergency orders or certification. And yet the bulk of that amount, or US$2.1 million, was spent on "non-disaster emergencies," such as: A lack of public school buses; a budget shortfall at the Guam Police Department; overtime payments for police officers, firefighters and corrections officers.

None of these truly constituted emergencies. The failure to properly budget, or provide full budget allotments to an agency for operations or salary, including overtime, is just poor planning and bad management. A shortage in school buses is the result of poor maintenance and, again, bad management for failing to properly account for future busing needs. In these cases, elected officials allowed bad situations to reach crisis levels.

The spending decisions make it clear that the government needs to adopt standards for what qualifies as an emergency. A good basis would be the criteria used by U.S. Office of Management and Budget: expenditures are necessary; the situation was sudden; the situation was unforeseen; the need was urgent; and the situation isn't permanent.

This would make it extremely clear when the governor could authorize emergency spending on his own. In instances of non-disaster-related emergencies, the public auditor's report recommended the Legislature require the governor to seek legislative approval for spending.

These are extremely sensible and logical solutions. They both ensure that there would be proper justification for expending tax dollars in times of emergency.

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