Guam Auditor Critical Of Contested Procurement Process For School Construction, Repairs

Appeal over $100 million deal to rebuild high school leaves project stalled until resolved

By Haidee V Eugenio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Sept. 16, 2016) – Public Auditor Doris F. Brooks described the handling of a $100 million school construction project as disappointing, disturbing and troubling during a Thursday hearing on a procurement protest.

The Department of Public Works wanted to award the contract to rebuild Simon Sanchez High School and repair 34 other public schools to Guam Education Financing Foundation, but Core Tech International Corp. protested and appealed. No contract award can proceed until the appeal is resolved.

Brooks, who is running for re-election, directed a series of questions at Public Works Deputy Director Felix Benavente, the chief procurement officer for the contract. She learned the department didn't keep a log of communication related to the project, and Benavente relied heavily on department staff to keep track of what was happening.

“I’d say I’m disappointed in the manner in which you were not able to answer more precisely what happened to this $100 million contract and it really casts a shadow for the people of Guam as to the openness and transparency of the procurement process," she said. “What I find a little bit troubling or disturbing was the lack of proper record keeping.”

Benavente agreed partially with the public auditor’s assessment.

“I guess I’m at fault there for doing a lot of reliance on the professional staff to get that done on behalf of the department. In this case, as the director has recused himself, I became the procurement officer,” Benavente said.

He said in his mind, the government of Guam’s chief procurement officer for construction isn't one individual but an agency.

Brooks also directed Benavente’s attention to an email from the attorney general’s office as late as February 2016, reminding Public Works to properly keep track of all communications related to the $100 million procurement.

While Benavente said he always checks with Public Works professional staff with regard to procurement records, he told the public auditor he didn't personally inspect the records and took the staff on their word.

At the start of the hearing, Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Orcutt argued Core Tech’s serving of a subpoena to Speaker Judith Won Pat should be quashed because high-ranking government officials shouldn't be required to testify, absent compelling reasons.

Pacific Daily News
Copyright © 2016 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved

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