Interior Department Evaluation Delegation Visiting Guam

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Team considering island’s capacities prior to military buildup

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Sept. 11, 2013) – A delegation from the Department of the Interior (DOI), led by Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall, is currently on Guam to evaluate the island’s capability and capacity to accommodate a looming population growth resulting from the Marines’ relocation from Okinawa, Japan.

Kendall said the team will be on island for a week to meet with defense officials and local government leaders, including administrators of agencies that the Inspector General’s Office has audited in the past.

"But we are not really talking about audit issues. We just want to meet and say hello to the folks that are responsible for these organizations and then find out their concerns," Kendall said.

She said the Inspector General’s Office is doing program audits, rather than compliance audits, on Guam.

"Primarily, our focus is on what they need in order to respond appropriately when the buildup occurs," Kendal said.

The Asia-Pacific troop relocation plan will entail the transfer of 5,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam.

Kendall, who has been with DOI for 14 years and is visiting Guam for the first time, was the keynote speaker at the Pacific Association of Supreme Audit Institutions’ 16th Congress being held at the Sheraton Laguna Resort Hotel.

GMH capacity

One of the DOI delegation’s key concerns is Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH), which the Inspector General’s Office audited earlier this year.

"We are looking at their capacity and how it’s being operated," Kendall said. "The primary purpose (of the audit) was to make sure that they have a capacity to deal with not only the present patients but also the additional population when the influx of the military comes, and that they are prepared in advance."

The DOI delegation is in town amid the height of the hospital’s recurring financial crisis.

Crisis factors

The crisis, according to Gov. Eddie Calvo, was triggered by "internal issues" pertaining to "how the hospital deals with billings and receivables," as well as "external issues" that involve federal mandates.

In his opening remarks at the Pacific auditing association's Congress, Calvo attributed GMH's fiscal predicament partly to the high cost of providing services to freely associated states citizens under the Compacts of Free Association.

"The majority of self-pay patients (who visit GMH) are citizens of the treaty," the governor said.

And while the local government is mandated to provide social services under the Compact, Calvo said Guam is being shortchanged on federal programs.

"Some of the external issues have to do with the difference in how the territories are being treated as compared to (the rest of the) United States in terms of federal programs such as Medicaid and Medicare," the governor said.

Kendall said she will meet with the governor to discuss the hospital issues, but without promising she can bring more federal money.

"The Office of Insular Affairs of the Department of Interior is responsible for the grants," Kendall said. "We work cooperatively with [the Office of Insular Affairs] but we have to maintain our independence and objectivity, so we don’t necessarily advocate."

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