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GUAM GOVERNOR’S TOP AIDE TARGET OF INQUIRY Bamba violated federal grant regulations

By Steve Limtiaco HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 11, 2010) - Chief of Staff George Bamba and government chief procurement officer Claudia Acfalle broke Guam law when they approved a Port Authority of Guam community outreach program, according to the Guam Office of the Attorney General.

The job needed to go through a separate procurement process, the attorney general’s office said, and noted the procurement also appears to violate federal grant regulations.

The governor’s office should consider taking "appropriate action" against Bamba and Acfalle, according to the attorney general’s office, and Bamba should be "admonished" for allowing a contractor to be paid for a service or product that was not delivered.

The attorney general’s office yesterday afternoon released findings and recommendations based on its procurement review of the US$350,000 project.

The attorney general’s review was requested last July by then acting-Gov. Mike Cruz, following a series of stories about the Port project in the Pacific Daily News. The governor’s office received the attorney general’s report yesterday afternoon.

The Port never approved the outreach project after its legal counsel stated concerns about the need to put the work out to bid. But the project was adopted by the governor’s office after Bamba said he would use military buildup-related grant money to pay for it. Bamba is the local authorizing official for more than US$11 million in buildup assistance grants from the military’s Office of Economic Adjustment.

The job never went out to bid and was given to existing port consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff International, which had been hired to help the port update its master plan. The work was done by Parsons subcontractor M2D2, which employs Bamba’s daughter-in-law and one of the port general manager’s brothers.

Those family relationships aren’t a conflict of interest, the procurement review states, because ethics restrictions in local procurement law don’t apply to daughters-in-law. And Port General Manager Glenn Leon Guerrero didn’t start working at the agency until after the outreach project was made final, the review states.

The attorney general’s office interviewed PBI Vice President Frank Chen in connection with the review, and he said Bamba never contacted him about the M2D2 subcontract. Chen told the attorney general’s office it was Chen’s decision alone to subcontract the work to M2D2.

The project was paid for using a US$350,000 purchase order through the governor’s office. Purchase orders larger than US$15,000 are supposed to go through a competitive bidding process, according to local law, but Acfalle told the Pacific Daily News she approved it based on a memo from Bamba.

Assistant Attorney General John Weisenberger, who conducted the procurement review, described the outreach project as "a contract, processed as a purchase order."

The port was correct in not pursuing the outreach project as a part of its consultant contract with PBI, the review states, but the governor’s office and the General Services Agency also weren’t allowed to pursue it because the port was the "procuring authority."

Federal grant regulations state all laws must be followed when spending grant money, so the procurement appears to have violated federal grant regulations, the review states.

A large portion of the outreach project never was completed -- the creation and maintenance of a US$100,000 Web portal -- and the attorney general’s office said port contractor Parsons Brinckerhoff International should either return US$100,000 to the government of Guam or do the work it was paid for. The company has started working on the web portal, the Port’s general manager said yesterday.

The Pacific Daily News yesterday called Parsons Brinckerhoff International for comment, but questions were referred to the Port Authority of Guam.

"The Port Authority of Guam recently began discussing and developing a Web portal with Parsons Brinckerhoff. It is our understanding that Parsons Brinckerhoff is finalizing the Web portal design and anticipates completion in the near future," Port General Manager Glenn Leon Guerrero said in an e-mail response.

Acfalle was off island yesterday and unavailable for comment. The governor’s office also didn’t respond to a call for comment.

The Defense Department Office of Economic Adjustment, which provided grant funding to the governor’s office to pay for the project, also is reviewing the procurement, but it hasn’t yet released its findings. The OEA last year froze US$350,000 in grant funding to the governor’s office -- the value of the outreach project -- pending completion of its procurement review, and said it might take additional action, if necessary.

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