U.S. CALLS FOR AUDIT OF GUAM SCHOOL SYSTEM

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By Carlos B. Pangelinan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 11) - The U.S. Department of Education has repeated the need for an independent and thorough management audit of the Guam Public School System.

It indicated this as one of its conclusions from site visits to GPSS in a recent letter to Governor Felix Camacho and GPSS Superintendent Luis Reyes.

The management audit, according to proponents, would set a direction for the school system to be streamlined. U.S. DOE officials are urging Guam leaders to work together to make the audit a reality.

While Camacho, in a written statement released last night, said he would work with GPSS officials and others on the issue, the governor blamed the school system for the stalled audit.

"From the start, GPSS should have been more diligent in conducting this audit to ensure taxpayer and federal resources get to the classrooms in the most efficient way," Camacho said in his release. "The Legislature authorized an audit and others in our community have supported it," Camacho added. "We did not need for U.S. DOE to demand the audit as a condition of grant funding."

In September 2006, the governor signed a bill into law that appropriates US$275,000 to "ascertain whether GPSS is providing an adequate education" and to "evaluate the (GPSS') organizational structure and staffing, financial management, curriculum and instruction," the law states. However, the budget appropriation went unspent after a deadline passed in January to award a contract, according to Pacific Daily News files.

According to Reyes, GPSS followed what was spelled out in the law and he has never been against a management audit. "When the public law was passed we complied with the RFP," Reyes said. "We did not get any response." Reyes added that the audit's request for proposal was published locally and placed on GPSS' Web site.

Businessman and finance expert Carl Peterson, who chairs the Guam Chamber of Commerce's Education Committee, said the law provided too short of a window to get the bidding process done. The Chamber has long pushed for an independent management audit of the local education agency, GovGuam's largest line agency, according to PDN news files. About 4,000 people are on the school system's payroll, and about 700 of them occupy jobs paid for with federal taxpayer money.

Peterson also said if the audit's request for proposal was announced globally, not just locally, there would likely be firms interested in bidding. As for the amount the original law appropriated, Peterson said it is sufficient. "There's qualified people who do it for approximately that much money and they do it for fairly large (school) districts," said Peterson, who heads financial planning firm Money Resources Inc. "It's important to know where the inefficiencies exist," said Sen. Ray Tenorio who introduced a bill that amends the law and requires that "there shall be no expiration to the appropriations." The bill further states that requests for proposals shall be solicited within 60 days of the bill's passage into law and that GPSS shall solicit proposals locally and nationally.

Reyes said he supports the measure and that he will comply with it if it becomes law. He said a hearing on the bill will give GPSS an opportunity to get together with the all the party's concerned particularly with the scope of work for the management audit.

Tenorio's Bill 45 was referred to the Committee on Education, General and Omnibus affairs chaired by Speaker Mark Forbes on February 5, according to legislature's archive office.

According to Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks, a management audit is an undertaking that requires cooperation among all of the stakeholders: GPSS, the Guam Education Policy Board, the legislature, and the governor -- a point that was also made by federal officials in their letter to local officials. "A management audit is like auditing the world," Brooks said. "The people you need to do this work need to know explicitly what you want accomplished."

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