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NEWS: Hotels paid through EFT; Civil Defense head says no one concurred with use of funds

Lester Carlson and Ed Birn

By Jacob Nakamura

(Tumon, Guam) An April 17, 2020 email from budget director Lester Carlson says that advance payments to hotels used for quarantine and isolation were made with the concurrence of Guam Homeland Security and the Office of Civil Defense.

But Civil Defense administrator Charles Esteves told Kandit News today, "No one in GHS/OCD concurred with hotel payments."

The $142,000 in payments were made "in advance of executed contracts and concurrence from OCD and GSA," according to the email from Mr. Carlson.

The payments were made, not by check from the Department of Administration, but by electronic funds transfer, according to Mr. Esteves, from civil defense funds accounts. According to Mr. Esteves, no one at Civil Defense certified the availability and legal use of funds.

The contracts still are pending review and clearance from the island's chief procurement officer, Claudia Acfalle. According to the Office of the Attorney General, they have not yet received those contracts to clear as to legality and form.

The payments, $100,800 to the Wyndham Gardens hotel, and $30,800 to the Days Inn, were made at the direction of governor's legal counsel and son in law Haig Huynh, according to several emails from Mr. Huynh to the financial and procurement officers of the government.

Guam's procurement law clearly proscribes advance payments in this case.

"With the exception of off-island orders of the Department of Education, no procurement shall be made under this Chapter which shall require advance payment." - Title 5 Guam Code Annotated, Chapter 5, §5007. Police Against Advance Payments

According to Guam's certifying officer law, "'Certifying Officer' shall mean a person who is responsible for determining and certifying legality of the disbursement of public funds. The officer does not have physical possession of the funds."

The law goes on to state: "A certifying officer is responsible for the existence and correctness of the facts stated in the certificate or voucher or supporting papers, the legality of the proposed payment under the appropriation or fund involved, the correctness of the computations on the certified voucher, and making good to the government of Guam the amount of any illegal, improper or incorrect payment resulting from any payment prohibited by law or which did not represent a legal obligation under the appropriation or fund involved."

According to Mr. Esteves and to Carlina Charfauros, spokeswoman for the attorney general, no contracts for the hotels have been executed. The contracts would otherwise represent a legal obligation needed to certify funds, then to disburse those funds through the EFT.

It is unclear who authorized the EFT, as documents disclosed by the Department of Administration do not show these transactions. Kandit awaits a response from Mr. Carlson on who authorized the EFT, and if funds were certified, and by whom.

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Someone at procurement was either sleeping or hoodwinked or both!🤡

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