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Public auditor losing veteran auditors to agencies he is auditing

By Nancy I. Maanao

Want the Office of Public Accountability to audit the use of your tax money, find the corrupt, and recommend prosecution? The adage, 'You get what you pay for,' applies.

Over the past year, six auditors from OPA's ranks (which used to be 20 strong), left to work in autonomous agencies for much higher pay. Five of the six former OPA employees, all veteran auditors, now make anywhere from $8,000 to $27,000 more per year than the Legislature has allowed in their former positions at OPA. The irony is they now are working for the agencies they once audited, including the Department of Administration.

One of the employees left OPA, where she was making only $53,750 a year, to work at the University of Guam for $76,287, or a 42 percent increase in pay.

Because of government of Guam’s current policies there is a huge disparity between the way many professional positions are salaried between autonomous agencies and line departments such as the Office of the Public Accountability —which has been instrumental in unravelling the Huynh-COVID emergency procurement debacle, and the alleged underreporting of cigarette taxes.

As it stands, an auditor with four years experience and a masters degree at the Guam Office of Public Accountability will make roughly one-third less than an auditor with the same qualifications at the Guam Power Authority.

For entry-level auditing positions the disparity in pay is arguably even more blatant. For example, an accounting technician II at the Port of Guam which requires a high school degree makes $39,430, while the beginning salary for a bachelors-degreed Auditor 1 is $37,100.

Sources within the OPA say the office hired four entry-level auditors to replace three experienced ones lost recently to other departments and agencies. Despite the inadequate staffing level, OPA has exposed white collar crime in GovGuam. And despite Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz's previous affiliation with the Democratic Party of Guam, his office has pursued audits unfavorable to the democratic administration of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.

A 2014 compensation study by the late Dr. Karri Perez outlined the issues surrounding OPA’s inability to retain staff and made recommendations to reclassify positions and corresponding salaries. However, the study ultimately was not implemented, and senators have not adjusted OPA's budget and staff compensation authorization.

Kandit News will be following up on this story with a call to lawmakers about the need to properly compensate the very employees whose job it is to enforce fiscal accountability in government.

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