Saturday, April 19, 2014

OPA: DCA's Purchase of Former President's Book Called "Conflict of Interest"; Flores Denies Profiting from Transactions

Guam News - Guam News

Guam - An audit released by the Office of Public Accountability states that the Department of Chamorro Affairs [DCA] paid nearly $10-thousand dollars over 3 years to buy a book co-authored and edited by DCA's former President Sylvia Flores.

The audit refers to the purchases as  "conflict of interest transactions" that were not approved by the DCA Board and were "in direct conflict with Public Law 25-69, Section 87719 due to the book being co-authored and edited by the president of DCA at the time the funds were paid."

READ the Auditor's Report on DCA's Compliance with Laws and Regulations 

In a telephone interview with PNC News Sunday afternoon Flores said "I definitely did not have a conflict of interest" and "I did not profit personally"  from  DCA's purchase of the books.

The book in question is "Inspirations of Guam." It is a picture book with scenic photos of the island taken by Steven Zhao. It sells for $95 dollars.

Flores said that Zhao owns the book and gets the profits from it. "In 2005 when we did this book" said Flores "I was with the Guam Council on Arts and the Humanities.And the agreement is he owns the book ... I helped edit it," she said.

Flores was president of DCA from July 2007 to December 2010. During her time as President of  DCA she said, "there were a lot of officials coming to Guam and the Governor and the First Lady used the book as gifts ... there were no other books" appropriate as gifts said Flores,  "so we bought this book." 

The independent audit was conducted by Eide Bailly, LLP of Boise Idaho. This was the first audit of the Department of Chamorro Affairs, and it covered the years 2009 and 2010.

The auditor expressed a qualified opinion of  DCA's financial statement in connection with the "inventory balance and book sales/cost of sales due to insufficient support."  A qualified audit opinion is given if the auditor disagrees with the treatment or disclosure of information in the financial statements.

The audit also questioned increases in travel and food expenses.

Flores told PNC News that it was always "a challange for me to make sure that the staff properly documents everything." And she pointed out that "there were no records [at DCA] in the past. I went in their and set up all the records," she said.

 Among the other findings in the audit:

READ the HIGHLIGHTS of the Department of Chamorro Affairs Audit

* Travel expenses tripled "from $8,452 to $29,954" for trips to the Philippines, Washington D.C. and to the Native Hawaiian convention to "purchase items for the Latte of Freedom and Chamorro Village."

* Meal and entertainment costs, where food was purchased for various events not considered an appropriate use of DCA funds, went up by $28,864 to $61,563 from $32,699.

* DCA was found non-compliant with procurement policies to obtain bids for services or products and to document reasons for vendor selection.

* The auditor also question $124,811 in food purchases. $71,802 in 2010 and $53,009 in 2009.

* contractual expenses, travel, advertising, meals and entertainment increased by $159,884, from $243,451 to $403,335 due to DCA's addition of the Friday Ocean Night Market at the Chamorro Village.

* contractual expenses for security, maintenance and janitorial services rose by $78,201, from $191,760 to $269,961.


The auditor's "Report on Compliance with Laws and Regulations" reports that from November 2007 through December 2010, there was $9,686 paid to a vendor for a book called "Inspiration of Guam" that was co-authored and edited by the former president of the Department of Chamorro Affairs."

The editor and co-author of "Inspiration of Guam" is former Chamorro Affairs President Sylvia Flores.

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