By Nancy I. Maanao
(Tumon, Guam) Gov. Ralph Torres is a big shopper. According to six more reimbursement memos he submitted and that were approved by the Department of Finance, the governor went on 10 more shopping sprees between 2016 and December 2018. He bought high-end laptops, electronic supplies, another GoPro, more audio headsets, and an expensive camera. No food appear on the receipts from these shopping sprees.
On June 30, 2017, Mr. Torres walked into Dick's Sporting Goods in Boise, Idaho, and bought himself a Hero5 GoPro camera for $381.59. On August 29 that year he submitted his reimbursement memo to Secretary of Finance Larissa Larson, and the reimbursement was certified and processed shortly after.
While traveling on March 3, 2017, Mr. Torres walked into the World Duty Free in the San Antonio International Airport and bought himself a $70.35 HubMax power charger. Ms. Larson also approved this reimbursement to Mr. Torres.
A month later in Honolulu, on April 23, 2017, the governor went to BestBuy and purchased the award-winning Bose Quietcontrol 30 Bluetooth wireless earphones for $314.13. This money was reimbursed to Mr. Torres, compliments of the people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
On October 23, 2017, the governor went to Costco in Boise, Idaho and bought a $370.98 a Bose Soundtouch 10 x 2 starter pack wireless speakers. That also was charged to the taxpayers in a January 8, 2018 reimbursement memo to Ms. Larson, which she approved and had the CNMI taxpayers pay to Mr. Torres.
In that same reimbursement memo is the December 4, 2017 receipt from his San Diego trip to the Navy Exchange, where Mr. Torres decided to buy a beautiful Nikon 3400 DSLR bundle pack with two lenses valued at $897.99. He got the taxpayers a discount that day, so the people of the CNMI only paid $473.09 for his camera and lenses.
Mr. Torres even shopped at Kmart Guam, where his December 1, 2018 receipt with the note, Shopyourway, indicates he spent the CNMI taxpayers's money on a phone charger, a power bank, and a USB-C cord for a total misuse of government funds at Kmart of $47.27.
The biggest shopping spree among these six reimbursement memos, however, happened on April 13, 2016, at the BestBuy store in Honolulu. It was there that the governor bought three Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 touchscreen laptops for $700 a piece, five Jabra Extreme2+ noise cancelling Bluetooth wireless headsets, and several other electronic supplies for a grand total of $3,209.81 of the taxpayers money spent in one shot.
Under the "Detail" column of the reimbursement memo, Mr. Torres stated the computers, equipment and supplies were for "Office equipment and supplies for the Medical Referral Office (Hawaii)," however the large purchases were not made using any competitive bidding or procurement process.
Kandit also reviewed the Fiscal Year 2018 budget request for the medical referral office, which showed no funded personnel for the office.