Updated: Jan 18, 2020
Officials admit Beng Teng spa purchases not allowed
By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) The University of Guam finally provided Kandit News Group a reason for Dr. Rachael Leon Guerrero's two transactions at Macy's using a government-issued credit card.
A $469.88 purchase was made at Macy's on February 26, 2018, according to a Bank of Guam credit card statement for a Mastercard paid for by the island's taxpayers. That was a Tuesday and a workday. A day later on Wednesday, February 27, 2018, another transaction from that same credit card was made at Macy's for $359.70.
The total $829.58 in purchases appears in the March 2018 credit card statement received by the UOG Business Office on March 28, 2018. Dr. Robert Underwood was the president of the university at the time.
Ms. Leon Guerrero is the university's director of research and sponsored programs.
On January 2, 2020, nearly two weeks ago, Kandit requested for more information on the credit card purchases and whatever justification exists for the purchases. Director of Integrated Marketing Jonas Macapinlac finally responded to Kandit today:
"Fitbit devices were purchased as part of a federal grant project called the Children’s Healthy Living (CHL) Program for Remote Underserved Minority Populations in the Pacific Region. The goal of the CHL grant was to conduct a child obesity prevention trial in eight different villages. We collected data from approximately 1,000 at baseline (2013) and at the 2-year follow-up (2015), and again at the 6-year follow-up (2019). Programs under the grant also included activities like "Walk to Wellness," "Biggest Loser," specialized training for DOE teachers and students, and food curriculum training for schools. The Fitbits were provided as awards to participants who reached certain program goals. These purchases were allowable based on the needs of the grant activity and UOG policy." - Jonas Macapinlac
Kandit followed this response by asking Mr. Macapinlac, "Did Macy's provide the lowest prices for the FitBits among vendors known to carry the devices?" He responded, "Yes. Other local vendors did not have units available. Attempts were also made to purchase online at Fitbit.com, but the company had stopped shipping to Guam at the time."
However, among the ream-stack of credit card transactions UOG provided, the university's most used vendor using the credit cards is Amazon. According to Amazon's online shop site, Fitbits are sold there at far cheaper prices than they are sold at Macy's.
The university also was using a freight forwarding service for purchases made online with companies that did not ship to Guam. Those shipments were sent to Guam using freight forwarding services. Kandit asked Mr. Macapinlac about this; we are awaiting his response.
Spa purchases were not justified
A University of Guam-issued credit card was used on July 17, 2019 at the Oceanview Beng Teng Spa, Lotte Hotel Guam. The card is issued to Dr. James Sellman, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
The cost of Beng Teng's services to the government on that day? $450. The phone number listed in the transaction ledger is the mobile phone number for the owner of the spa, who gave us the land line number to the spa's customer service desk to call instead.
According to the spa's website under the "Our Services" menu, a "Signature Massage - 110 min" costs $150. The spa also offers Beng Teng, Dry, and Foot massages at different time intervals and for other prices. They also provide an After Sun Body Wrap and a Paris Treatment Option Menu.
No educational services are listed.
Mr. Macapinlac, in his statement to Kandit, admitted that the charges were considered "unallowed:"
"In July 2019, Beng Teng Spa services were purchased for a health and wellness activity as part of a staff development day for nine staff members. In accordance with its processes, UOG reviewed the transaction and determined that it did not meet the definition of an allowable purchase based on policy. In November 2019, UOG updated its credit card policy and provided additional training to employees to further clarify what are allowable and unallowable purchases." - Macapinlac
Kandit asked Mr. Macapinlac whether Mr. Sellman was sanctioned, or any adverse action taken against him. He responded, "UOG does not comment on personnel matters."
However, that isn't true at all. UOG has issued statements regarding the personnel status and eventual firing of convicted rapist Dr. Michael Ehlert, and of an administrative staffer who was fired during that same period in a separate matter.
We reminded Mr. Macapinlac of this and asked him why Mr. Sellman is being held to a different standard. We are awaiting his response.
Kandit has sent Mr. Macapinlac's responses on behalf of the university to Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz.